The Deprioritisation of Voices in an Election


Table of Contents

With a few days until Americans make a decision about their next President, we want to highlight the issue of voter suppression. It’s nothing new. In Taylor County, Giorgia in 1946, Black people were threatened with violence by white people if they dared to vote. But Maceo Snipes – off the back of a Federal Court ruling that said white people could no longer prevent Black people from voting in the Democratic primary – would not be thwarted and voted. He was the only Black person in the county who did. Two days later he was lynched by a group of white men for doing so. Such acts of violence are central to how white people’s societal power is maintained. The permissibility of this violence reflects the ways structures – laws, policies, and institutions – serve white people’s interests.  The outcome of this violence – where Black people live in terror of exercising their rights – ensures governing institutions continue to serve white people’s interests at the expense of others.

We aren’t in 1946, and today voter suppression of poor people, people of color, disabled people, native people, and other marginalized communities, prevails. Below are just some of the mechanisms – all entirely legal – deployed by various states to block people from voting:

  • Last-minute requirements of evidence to produce to be eligible to vote 
  • Moving polling stations to hostile neighborhoods 
  • A reduction in polling booths 
  • Gerrymandering 
  • Strict photo ID requirements
  • Felon disenfranchisement laws 
  • Purging of electoral rolls
  • Calling law enforcement to monitor the polls 
  • Prohibit early voting
  • Prohibit voting by post 
  • Restricting voter registration
  • Pandemic-specific: polling stations that prevent social distancing, ventilation, etc

How have these tactics suppressed voters historically and continue to impact people now? 

If we take strict ID requirements, for example, we see obtaining a photo ID isn’t easily accessible for people made poor who are required to incur expenses to obtain the underlying documents that are needed to get even a free ID. Disabled people with limited mobility are also left with limited options when travel is required to obtain IDs. Changing one’s gender on an ID can cost an upwards of $358, which can be extremely costly for trans and nonbinary people, not to mention how the process of changing one’s ID can be incredibly difficult (57% of trans people of voting age have no updated IDs in states that require strict photo IDs). This particular restriction has resulted in a reduction of voter turnout by 2-3% points, equivalent to losing tens of thousands of votes in a single state

What’s democratic about an election when these are in place? To learn more about voter suppression we recommend the following two documentaries: All In: The Fight for Democracy and Whose Vote Counts, Explained on Amazon Prime and Netflix respectively. 

For all those in the US voting next week we wish you a peaceful experience.

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