Voting has never been more important. Looking back at one of the most pivotal presidential elections in history, won by an extremely close margin despite the largest voter turnout in history, it is clear to see why voting is so important. Yet, voting rights are under siege everywhere.
In recent years, more than 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 48 states. Voter suppression tactics range from voter photo ID laws to making it a crime to hand out food or water to voters standing in line at the polls, and the list goes on.
No, really, the list goes on right here:
- Redistricting and gerrymandering: These topics have an extremely complicated history, so I won’t be going into detail here, but click the link if you’re interested in learning more!
- Voter Purges: A means of removing voters from voter rolls, it is used as mass disenfranchisement based on illegitimate reasons. Voters often don’t know it has happened to them until they show up at the polls, at which point it’s too late to remedy.
- Felony disenfranchisement: In many states, being convicted of a crime can cost you your right to vote. But the rules vary on a state-by-state basis, making it almost impossible for voters to keep track of which laws apply where, disenfranchising them in practice if not necessarily through legal methods.
- Voter Registration Restrictions: States can suppress voting by enforcing arbitrary rules meant to make it more difficult to register to vote. These rules could include requiring certain documents to prove your identity, limiting the amount of time you have to register, or making voting registration sites challenging to find or reach.
There are plenty of ways voters are being disenfranchised, but all laws are not affecting the U.S. population equally. People of color are disproportionately feeling the consequences of voter suppression efforts. For example, African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites across the country, which means any state that revokes convicts’ right to vote is disenfranchising black people at a rate of 5 times that of white people.
The problem also extends far beyond simply registering; voters actually have to be convinced to get out and vote.
Boston just had its mayoral election primary, and only 25% of registered voters actually cast their ballots. This goes to show the lack of political efficacy among the voting age population. It’s also in part due to the political polarization of America; voters are less likely to cast their votes if they don’t have a candidate with which they can agree. As each political party moves further away from the middle, independents will be left behind.
That’s why it’s integral that you do your part! If you’re 18 or older, find out how you can register to vote here. If you’re 16 or older, you can pre-register now! If you’re local to Boston, the Boston Latin School Topol Fellows are running a voter registration event this week to help increase voter participation in the mayoral election on November 2, but you have to be registered by October 13th, so don’t drag your feet! Reach out for more details using the contact page if you’re interested.
Though it may be discouraging to see such low turnout, and though you may doubt that your voice matters, I can assure you it does, and the only way to fix a low turnout is to convince people to use their voices too! Talk to the people around you, and don’t give up. Prove that despite the road bumps, nevertheless, WE persisted.