With election day just days away, it’s no secret that actually showing up to vote is the most important thing we can all do to impact the future of this country. Our vote matters, and whether we choose to vote early, vote by mail, vote absentee, or vote in person on election day, our voice needs to be heard, and our ballot needs to be counted.
However, the terrifying truth is that our voting rights are under attack. Voter suppression laws in states across the country are threatening our most fundamental right as a U.S. citizen — our right to vote.
While every single American has a constitutional right to cast a vote, these laws, and the lawmakers who pass them, are working hard to ensure that all votes do not count, or that people, specifically people in minority populations, cannot cast a vote in the first place.
These laws are targeting certain populations of voters, particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities, by making it more challenging for them to cast their votes.
Measures that make it harder to vote include prohibiting early voting, instituting stricter voter ID laws, elimination of polling locations, threatening voting access, and instilling a lack of confidence in the security of mail-in voting. Yes, these actions are happening, and yes, they are making it more challenging (and more confusing) for people across the country to vote.
For example, a recent study from the Brennan Center found that voters of color face longer wait times to vote than white ones. While that may have been the case in past elections as well, it is more apparent and exponentially more damaging due to the current pandemic.
When it comes to in-person voting, Black voters tend to wait 45 minutes longer and Latino voters wait 46 minutes longer than white voters. And in addition, Black Americans and voters of color are less likely to hold the required ID to vote than white voters, making it more difficult for them to cast their ballot.
These actions tend to disenfranchise minority citizens who often vote in favor of Democratic candidates, and despite the fact that it is unconstitutional, the current administration insists that these measures are essential to ensure the security of the upcoming election.
“We have an incredibly polarized country and we have a political party whose leader thinks it’s to the party’s advantage to make it harder for people to register to vote and to vote,” said Richard L. Hasen, a UC Irvine law professor and authority on voting. “So that is where we are,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Voter suppression in 2020 is real. It’s threatening our democracy and our fundamental right to voice our opinion in this country.
So, what can you do to help fight voter suppression?
Raise awareness for voter suppression
The more you know, the more powerful you become. So spread that knowledge and make sure that everyone you know is aware of voter suppression and how it could impact communities around the country and the entire nation in this upcoming election and beyond.
Do not wait until election day to cast your ballot. If you live in a state where early voting is allowed, get out ahead of November 3rd and vote. Be prepared to wait in line (in a safe, socially distanced manner of course). If you cannot vote early, make a voting plan for election day so that you have no excuses. Have a backup plan in place.
Be prepared to wait (safely) to vote
Bring hand sanitizer. Wear a mask. Call out other people if they are not socially distancing. Be ready to wait and try not to lose patience. Bring a book. Go with a friend or family member. Have your identification on hand, and do your research ahead of time so you know exactly who you want to vote for before you arrive at your polling location.
Volunteer to help
If you think your local polling locations will be understaffed or in need or additional support, volunteer to help. And remember that the fight to save voting rights is not limited to 2020 and it will not end after election day.
Support organizations that work to ensure everyone has an equal right to vote
Non-profit organizations such as the ACLU, Black Voters Matter Fund, and League of Women Voters of the US are fighting to protect voter rights. Support these organizations. Donate money if you can. If you can’t, donate your time and support. Call your senator and demand action from Congress to protect voting rights. Raise your voice. Remember that voter suppression will not magically go away after this election. We all need to do our part to make a change for the future.