Breaking the Ballot: Part 1
Editor’s Note: This article is part 1 in a 2 part series on Voter Disenfranchisement.
Voter suppression is one of the most important issues of our time. Affecting tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of minority voters each election year, this problem has largely gone poorly addressed (if addressed at all). The United States government must tackle this crucial crisis in order to ensure equal access to a democratic process for all Americans.
One of the main elements of voter suppression is Felony Disenfranchisement. This occurs in states where former felony offenders are not allowed to vote in any elections. An estimated six million otherwise eligible citizens have been barred from voting in all elections because of prior felony violations of the law, regardless of the severity or repetition of said crime. This has made the US “one of the only democracies to permanently strip felons of their right to vote” (Source).
But voter suppression does not only affect felons. According to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), “approximately 45,000 ballots [were] discarded in the November 2016 general election alone due to a signature mismatch” in California (Source). This has cost tens of thousands of people their fundamental right to a say in our democracy. This disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, including women, people for whom English is not their first language, military personnel, those with disabilities, as well as transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Simple differences, such as pen changes or location variance can determine whether or not your vote is counted.
More than that, Voter ID Laws can also prevent your voice from being counted. In certain states, including Texas, Wisconson, and Ohio, all voters must have an identification card with a photo in order to cast their ballot. Despite having no identifiable effect on reducing voter fraud(and the issue only showing up on 0.0000031% of ballots in the first place (Source), the regulation has been described as a “solution in search of a problem” (Source).
In conclusion, voter disenfranchisement is an issue that must be properly and wholeheartedly addressed in order to preserve a high standard of truly American democratic values for minority voters.