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Voter Suppression was Alive and Well in the 2018 Midterms

While the 2018 midterm elections were a win for House Democrats, it was a huge loss for the hundreds of thousands of people who had their vote, and in turn their voices, suppressed. Although voter suppression has existed in many forms since the beginning of American history, we’re all frankly shocked, disgusted and appalled that there is still a place for it in politics today. Whether these institutional barriers come through the poll taxes and literacy tests of the 1960’s or photo ID laws and polling station failures of today (not to mention the seemingly immortal gerrymander), we’ve become complacent about the completely unconstitutional oppression of voters, which disproportionately affects minority voters, but that *must* end today.

Related: Voter Suppression: Be Aware

In Missouri, voters were faced with long lines, a lengthy ballot and extreme confusion over photo ID laws that amounted to voters waiting hours to be able to cast their ballots. Despite a law reforming Missouri voter ID laws that went into effect in June of 2017, voters were told they would not need a photo ID to vote. However, the new law states voters can prove their identity using a document like a bank statement or a utility bill (formerly they would need to also sign an affidavit, but the state’s circuit court recently ruled to say that was “contradictory and misleading”). Due to recent changes and confusion, many polling places either turned voters away for not having a photo ID or were given incorrect information.

A few hours after polls opened, a new and infinitely more complicated problem of malfunctioning ballot boxes, causing voters who already waited in hour-long lines to leave the polls without any confirmation that their votes would be counted, other than the advice from poll-workers to “to either leave it there, and they’ll scan them later, or to wait until the machines were fixed.” (via KCUR) Oh, and did we mention there was a power outage at a polling station?Via KCUR

In Florida, on the same night that over one million of the state’s felons had their right to vote restored, many voters who requested absentee ballots did not receive them in time to vote in the election despite requesting them before the deadline. When their local board of election was contacted, many voters were told to sign an affidavit or that they would send a second ballot to their address, most of which never came. This drove dozens of Florida residents to spend hundreds on last-minute plane tickets to fly to Florida and cast their vote, some coming from states as far as Massachusetts, New York, or Texas. “I requested my ballot two weeks before election day and had called to make sure I would receive it on time and was assured by the elections office that I would receive it.

When I noticed the ballot was taking much longer than expected I kept calling, and many days no one would pick up, and I didn’t receive an answer until the Friday before Election Day. I had to fill out paperwork to allow my mom to pick up the ballot in the mail and Fed-Ex it to me, but even with that there wasn’t enough time and I received my ballot on Election Day, and when I spoke to other friends they had the exact same experience,” says Bella D’Alacio, a Miami native and Freshman studying Government and International Politics at George Mason. “I definitely believe it’s voter suppression because of how widespread it was. When college students move away from home or anyone is unable to make it to the polls for any reason, it immediately becomes incredibly difficult to vote. Times are changing, and with all this technology at our disposal, we need to rethink our election system.”

Related: What Does SCOTUS’ Voter Purge Really Mean for Already Disenfranchised Voters?

In Boward County, Florida, voters are outraged after being prohibited from voting at their polling place– which was inside a gated community. Many reported that security guards wouldn’t allow anyone entry to the community unless they showed photo ID and requesting personal information, which made many uncomfortable because they had no knowledge of if the guards worked for a private company or what was going to happen with their information. The area’s polling place was previously held at a public community center but was moved for the primary elections. The same issue of voters not being allowed in were reported in complaints to the Board of Elections, the polling place remained unchanged.

Via The Atlantic

In Georgia, voter suppression occurred on several different levels. Before the election, the Republican candidate in the gubernatorial race, Brian Kemp, kept his position as Secretary of State, which oversees the state elections, while running against Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate. As Secretary of State, he purged voter rolls and placed over 53,000 registrations on hold (nearly 70% of those were African Americans). When Georgia courts ruled against his actions, Kemp used his position to put the ruling on hold and keep it from going into effect before election day. Kemp won the election by a margin of by around 60,000 votes, eerily close to the number of voters he fought tooth and nail to keep from voting.

On Tuesday, Georgia polls were plagued with long voting lines and technical errors, causing many polling places to be forced to be open far past normal closing time to get all voters through the lines to cast their votes. In one Atlanta polling place, a metropolitan area with a population of over 413,000 residents in 2018, had only three voting stations. That’s right, three.

Stacy Abrams, who would have become the first female, African-American governor in the country, is refusing to concede the race at this juncture. With the race virtually tied, both teams are frantically searching to make sure that every vote was counted and counted correctly, and Abrams’ team is turning a particular focus towards absentee and early votes, making sure that every person who faced registration challenges was able to vote, and that all accusations of intimidation and coercion practices at polling places are investigated. With all these factors at play, it is extremely likely that a December runoff election will be necessary if neither candidate is able to secure a clear majority.

Related: Stacey Abrams Makes History by Becoming the First Black Woman to Win Georgia’s Democratic Primary for Governor

Via The Atlantic

These voter suppression tactics disproportionately impact minority voters more than any other demographic when minority voters already face–and have historically faced–the largest barriers to voting. When we elect officials who do anything less than condemn these actions, we are implicitly approving them and encouraging politicians to continue doing whatever possible to keep voter turnout down. It doesn’t matter who these suppressed votes would benefit, be it Republicans, Democrats or neither, what matters is that millions of Americans have their rights infringed on. These votes matter, these voices matter.

Chloe Fischer

George Mason University '22

Chloe is majoring in Government and International Politics at George Mason University. She is currently the President and Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at George Mason University. Outside of Her Campus, she is also a founding member and the secretary of Ignite GMU, her university's chapter of Ignite, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young women to declare their ambition and ignite their political power.