The midterms are coming, and I’m preparing myself. While I refuse to become a pessimist, the memories of the 2016 election continuously force a heavy dose of reality down my throat, dampening my already waning optimism. I still choose to be optimistic. Without that sliver of hope, there would be no point in continuously fighting, or voting, or even writing this article. But, part of the unfortunate reality that makes me concerned for this election and those that come after is the issue of voter suppression.
Already in the United States, voting is not exactly the easiest endeavour; you have to be motivated. It’s hard for people to take time off work, and transportation can be expensive. Some states have overly restrictive voting ID laws and limit where voting can take place by closing certain polling locations. This disproportionally affects low income citizens who cannot afford expensive IDs or extensive travel. Of course, the reason that’s given for these restrictions is fighting against voter fraud. However, study after study shows that voter fraud is practically a non-existent problem in the United States. What these overly restrictive laws do instead is prevent citizens from having a voice in their government.
Sometimes those in power utilize the much more obvious method of suppression called voter purging. Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Secretary of State and the Republican nominee for governor is under fire for voter suppression. Kemp, a candidate for the state’s highest office also controls voter registration and is in charge of elections. Currently, Georgia’s voter registration deadline has passed, and Kemp has over 53,000 voter registration applications on hold. A disproportionate amount of the applications are from black and minority citizens. Kemp denies voter suppression and cites the ‘exact match’ policy to which Georgia adheres as the reason for these application suspensions. This means that a misspelled word or missing hyphen could suspend a citizen’s voting status.
And in Indiana, a federal court ruled that the state could not use a controversial, heavily inaccurate database called Crosscheck to remove voters from registries. Not only would this software wrongly remove voters from registries based on incomplete data, but the citizens wouldn’t even be notified of this removal. Without knowing about it, none of those affected can work to fix their voting status. Despite this, the state has been accused of purging around 20,000 voters with the forbidden software. A nation that touts itself as the ‘greatest democracy on earth’ has people in power that want to suppress votes and the voice of the people.
Obviously, these limitations and obstacles have an incredibly negative impact on the citizens affected. However, it also proves that voting does matter. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be a desire to suppress it. We have to be full-time citizens, constantly paying attention to what’s happening to our rights and holding those in power accountable, despite however tedious and time consuming it may be. In the midterms, elect people who will fight against voter suppression. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, so don’t just scream – vote.