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Voting Rights, Voter Suppression Continue to Grab Headlines

by Golden Herring

 

The fight for voting rights continues, even in 2021.

 

 

Voting Rights Back in Spotlight


Recently, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to protect the voting rights of minorities.


During the tumultuous 2020 presidential race, voter suppression became a serious topic as many states enacted rules to make it easier to vote during the coronavirus pandemic, while other states did things to restrict the access to voting for minorities.


April D. Ryan of TheGrio.com reported, “The most recent executive order works to create ease in voter registration by making federal departments part of the process. Another aspect of President Biden’s plan updates Vote.gov to make it more of a prominent landing spot for reliable voter information.


“Another component of this order creates a Native American Voting Rights Steering Committee to increase voter participation within the community. During the recent elections, targeted voter suppression tactics compromised the Native American vote by prohibiting their participation if they did not have a physical address to use when registering to vote. Many Native Americans live on reservations that don’t offer a typical street address.”


Many Republican-controlled states like Texas made an effort to limit absentee voting during the 2020 presidential election.


Such efforts included having one drop off location for absentee ballots for an entire county.


In a sprawling metropolis like Harris County, Texas, which includes much of the Greater Houston area, people had to travel many miles if they wanted to drop off an absentee ballot and avoid the large crowds at the polls because of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.


Cities like Houston saw elderly voters take taxicabs to NRG Park in order to cast their votes absentee.


In 2018, many Georgia residents saw their voter registration cards nullified because of voter purges.


With voter purges, the Georgia Republican Party removed people’s names from the voting rolls without telling them because the resident had not cast a vote in recent years.


Often, people did not know they had gotten purged until they showed up at the polls and officials would not let them vote.


Other times, voting locations in predominantly African-American neighborhoods changed without some voters knowing about the change in location.


Alleged voter suppression found an ally in former President Donald Trump whose falsehoods about voter fraud and illegal voting has caused many Republican-led state legislatures to continue their efforts to make it more difficult to vote.


A popular voter initiative in Georgia called “souls to the polls,” in which churches would encourage parishioners to vote on Sunday after church will become null and void if Georgia ends early voting on Sundays.


Slate.com reported, “The Georgia bill also provides that individuals can be charged with a misdemeanor if they hand out food or drinks to voters standing in line on election days, even as it ensures that more voters will be forced to wait in longer lines to cast a ballot. Immiserating nonwhite voters, who are disproportionately forced to wait for hours in Georgia, is very much the game plan.


“As the lawyer for Arizona’s Republican Party conceded last week in oral arguments at the biggest voting rights challenge at the Supreme Court this term, the party is interested in limiting access to the ballot in swing states because otherwise, the GOP is at ‘a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats.’”


Another voter suppression tactic is to make it more difficult for ex-felons to restore their voting rights.


In 2020, Florida made ex-felons pay a fine to fully restore their voting rights, which proved difficult for many because of the financial burden.


Couple that with the fact that America imprisons minorities at a much higher rate than their White counterparts, and the prison system becomes another way of disenfranchising minority voters who often vote for Democrats.


To help ease the financial strain of paying fines to restore voting rights, celebrities like basketball icon LeBron James stepped in to pay the fines for many ex-felons in Florida.


Furthermore, during former President Trump’s final days in office, he cut costs and slowed down the Postal Service, causing many to think that he did that to intentionally limit mail-in ballots, which leaned heavily Democratic.


He had told his supporters to vote in person because they would not be able to trust the post office to deliver their mail-in ballots.


To combat alleged voter suppression, Democrats have introduced a massive voting rights bill that they say will protect the vote, while Republicans call the bill a crime.


Slate.com reported, “H.R. 1, the sweeping voting rights bill that passed the House [last] Thursday provides for, among other things, same-day and automatic voter registration, restoring the franchise to people with criminal records, and an expansion of early voting, voting by mail, and absentee drop boxes…


“The nearly 800-page package also includes many large-scale anti-corruption measures, including the mandatory release of presidential tax returns, regulation of inaugural committees and campaign coordination with foreign interests, an end to partisan gerrymandering for congressional districts, and more robust regulations of campaign finance and dark money.”


Despite Democrats claims of voter suppression efforts by Republicans, many in the GOP believe that election reform is needed because many believe that the election was stolen since Trump lost.


Former Vice President Mike Pence wrote in an op-Ed, “After an election marked by significant voting irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election.”


Pence added that, “polling shows that large numbers of Democrats did not trust the outcome of the 2016 election and that large numbers of Republicans still do not trust the outcome of the 2020 election.”



This article was published on Friday 12 March, 2021.
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