Voter Suppression: Be Aware

In the months leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, we see an outstanding amount of voter suppression attempts and achievements lurking in the shadows of our rights. Voter suppression includes anything from notably unfair gerrymandering, to the literal arrest of a woman for voting. Let’s face it, these “laws and regulations” are set up to target people of color, particularly African Americans, who are mostly Democrats and mostly liberal. Voting is not meant to be a game of cat and mouse; it’s supposed to be an exercising of rights. Besides, aren’t efforts to stop the black vote only supposed to exist in our history textbooks? 

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It’s clear that Republicans will go to audacious lengths to suppress the non-white vote, and the most outrageous example is what’s going on in Georgia right now as a new governor is soon to be elected. Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams are in a tight race for the position and considering that Abrams would be the first African-American woman to be elected governor in the country, minorities feel especially inspired to support her. Of course, there is always an antagonist to the story, and in this case, it’s Abrams’ rival Brian Kemp — who is also Secretary of State and in charge of the elections. Kemp essentially has the power to create rules around voting, and we know what this means. He has already created the “exact match” law, which requires that the name you put on your ballot must match the exact name on your government-issued ID and social security records. If not, your vote will be put on hold, or you will have to bring a photo ID to your polling place — which can be a major inconvenience to many. This means that if you leave out a hyphen from your last name, your vote will be “pending." Kemp has already put more than 53,000 votes on hold, 80 percent of which are Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans. The bulk of that 80 percent is African-American. Racial minorities are being targeted.

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Kemp oversaw the attempts to close polling sites in Georgia which are located in particularly non-white counties. This would mean that voters might have to travel far to vote, which is discouraging, especially with the long lines that often come with Election Day. Of course, Kemp hasn’t taken any action to stop this. Why would he if he virtually controls his own election? Kemp called accusations of mass voter suppression “fake news” and claims that voter suppression in Georgia is a story made up by Democrats.

Different states see different types of voter suppression. Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years in prison for voting in the 2016 election in Texas. Her vote was not counted. And her crime? She didn’t know that anyone convicted of a felony such as tax fraud — as she had been — could not vote. Is this a lesson that teaches us to always read the fine print, or are we allowed to be angry? 

Similarly, Rosa Ortega was sentenced to eight years in prison and immediate deportation back to Mexico after her sentence for mistakenly voting as an illegal immigrant. She had permanent resident status in the US after moving to the county in Texas as an infant. I’d say we are allowed to be angry at provisions such as these. I mean if you are an illegal immigrant, you cannot vote, if you have been convicted of a felony, you cannot vote, and now if you make one little mistake on your ballot, no vote for you. Should we be surprised that white republicans are once again targeting minority groups in the hopes of winning everything for themselves? 

For everyone out there who feels like their vote doesn't matter, or that there is no hope for their opinion because of all these cases of voter suppression, remember that they want to suppress your voice for a reason. Your voice, and all others like yours, has the power to change the system. Why else would they want to intimidate and suppress you? Don’t feel let down, feel empowered to vote despite those who tell you that you can’t. Beat them at their own game, inspire others, and you will win.

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