What Is Voter Suppression?
As U.S. citizens, we are entitled to specific voting rights. U.S. election laws were established to protect voters and date back to Article 1 of the Constitution, which gave states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Many Constitutional amendments and federal laws to protect voting rights have been passed since then. For example, during the civil rights movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment. The history and evolution of voter rights emphasizes the importance of this fundamental right for U.S. citizens.
Moreover, it is illegal for any state or local government to discriminate against anyone by denying them the right to vote based on their race, ethnicity, national origin or membership in a language minority. As every voter is entitled to their own voting decisions, it is illegal for any person or corporation to intimidate or coerce you to vote for or against a particular candidate or political issue.
VotesPA also explains that other elections laws:
- protect people in language minority groups from discrimination;
- ensure that people with a disability or the elderly can vote independently and privately; and
- establish rights for people who are in jail or who have been convicted of a crime.
Throughout history, the federal government has strengthened our voting rights and increased protections against unfair voting practices. Yet, with many of these laws in place, some states have created other laws that ultimately make it difficult for these very groups to vote by systemically attacking their rights.
This practice, known as voter suppression, has created burdens for eligible voters to exercise one of their most powerful rights as U.S. citizens. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains, “Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.”
It is our duty as citizens to ensure we fight against voter suppression by knowing our rights and using them to VOTE! More importantly, we have a duty to know when all elections are held as we have the power to not only vote to elect the President, but also other national, state and county officials – such as U.S. senators, U.S. representatives to Congress, state governors, attorney generals, state treasurers, county and city officials, judges and magisterial district judges, etc. – who ultimately make decisions that affect our daily lives and the communities in which we live.
Learn to advocate for yourself and your community by fighting against the systemic issue of voter suppression. Ensure your friends, family and colleagues are registered to vote, know who’s on your ballot, and be sure to keep up with your state and county voter deadlines. You have the power to create change in your communities, and voting is your ultimate source!
To learn more about the history of voter rights and voter suppression, check out this video!