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All Votes Count but are All Votes Counted?

Unofficial ballot drop boxes, 10-hour lines at the polls, strict voter identification laws, notarization requirements for absentee ballots… It seems like there is a news story on voter suppression every 10 minutes. This is the reality of voting in the United States in 2020. 

As U.S. citizens, voting is not only our right but our duty as constituents and it should be easy. Being less than two weeks out from a monumental presidential election, our votes matter more than ever. 

Art by Curt Merlo

So what exactly is voter suppression?

It is any effort, either legal or illegal, by way of laws, administrative rules, and/or tactics that prevents eligible voters from registering to vote or voting.

Across the nation, there are countless efforts, both sanctioned and unsanctioned by legislation, to suppress voters and falsely skew election results. Voter suppression is not only unconstitutional, it is also an unethical form of social control. Barring the ability to exercise this fundamental right directly impacts the proper functioning of our democracy and the right to use our voices in the democratic process. 

How is this allowed to happen?

According to Demand The Vote, following the 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republican legislators have presented and passed numerous voter suppression laws. Essentially, that Supreme Court ruling invalidated a decades-old “coverage formula” which stated certain jurisdictions had to pass federal scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, referred to as “preclearance,” in order to pass any new elections or voting laws.

What groups are impacted the most?

The results are unfortunately predictable.

Marginalized groups such as the elderly, people with disabilities, low-income communities, and people of color as a whole are disproportionately affected by voter suppression. These laws and acts of suppression largely benefit Reubuplican lawmakers and their corporate donors while targeting states with large populations and counties of disadvantaged status. In the eyes of the Republican party, these people are a deviant enemy to their agenda.

This biased perspective and basis for suppressive social control has impacted elections, disenfranchised voters, and inevitably warped the functionality of the quintessential American Democracy. It is yet another example of how perceptions of deviant identities and beliefs held by agents of formal control can gravely impact those being labeled — to a point of infringing on a constitutional right. 

Voter suppression is ultimately a scare tactic that assumes people will succumb to the barriers of allowing them to exercise their right to vote. It would be naive to say that this hasn't been the result in past elections, but it is imperative that it doesn't take anyone's power or voice this year.

I know that voter suppression can be discouraging, both systemically and mentally, but you cannot let it deter you.

No matter how you plan to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election, make sure you are counted because your vote does and always will matter.

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