In the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed states to change their election laws without advance federal approval. This left many familiar with the Civil Rights Movement disappointed and uneasy. As a nation with heavy hearts and a history of institutional racism, we asked ourselves “Without those protections, what will happen now?”
On November 8th, 2016 that question was answered when Donald J. Trump was elected US President. This cycle has been the first US Presidential race without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in 50 years, and, as it turns out, fifteen states (AL, AZ, GA, IN, KA, MI, NE, NH, OH, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA and WI) had new voting restrictions.
While we will never know how many people were kept from voting due to the sudden onset of voter restrictive policy, we know that voter suppression is an issue that primarily targets people of color, low-income earners and young people—all who usually vote Democrat. For example, in Wisconsin, where 300,000 registered voters lacked the newly required forms for voter ID, voter turnout was at its lowest level in 20 years. Turn out decreased 13% in Milwaukee, where 70% of the state’s African-American population lives. Consequently, Trump won Wisconsin by a mere 27,000 votes.
Additionally, in North Carolina, African American voter turnout decreased 16%, because in 40 heavily black counties, there were 158 fewer polling places. In total, there were 868 fewer polling places in counties that consist primarily of low-income earners and/or people of color across AZ, TX, LA, MS, AL, SC, and NC on Election Day.
Moreover, in Michigan, the state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the state Republican Party, the Trump campaign, Roger Stone and Stop the Steal, Inc. days before the election, citing that the defendants were “conspiring to threaten, intimidate, and thereby prevent minority voters in urban neighborhoods from voting in the 2016 election”. As a result, Trump won Michigan by a faint 13,000 votes.
Given the unjust targeting of certain demographics that usually vote Democrat and the slim margins Trump won by on Election night, it is fair to say that voter suppression could be one of the primary reasons Hillary Clinton lost the Presidency, and that fact is alarming. In a country where “your vote is your voice”, voter suppression is a threat to election integrity and the nation’s foundation upon democracy. Please visit http://www.votingrightsalliance.net/ to learn what you can do to fight it.
“A man without a vote is a man without protection.”- Former President Lyndon B. Johnson