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Voters Tackle Voter Suppression in the 2020 Presidential Election

By Sabreen N. Dawud, Staff Reporter

Photo Courtesy of Black Voices Black Votes

In the wake of the current presidential election, U.S. voters are running into obstacles once again. Common examples of voter suppression can currently be found in many areas around the country, preventing U.S. citizens from exercising their right to vote. 

Some of the tactics used this year to make voting more inaccessible include long wait times at voting locations, fake ballot boxes, and even locked ballot boxes. 

The use of fake ballot boxes in particular were seen in California this year. The California Republican Party recently confessed to having left 50 false ballot boxes around the state. Tactics like this are not only illegal but can prevent a lot of potential votes from being cast. 

Another notable example of voter suppression in this election can be found in felon voting in Florida. Florida recently approved Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment allowing felons to vote. This brought about much excitement as it was expected to ensure that more citizens can exercise their voting rights.

However, setbacks such as fee and fine restrictions, exclusion of felons that didn’t serve time in Florida, and exclusion of felons released before 1997 have made voting much more inaccessible for many of Florida’s felons.

Whether dealing with fake ballot boxes or law restrictions on voting, there lies a common trend: a use of manipulative strategies that may stir the election outcome in one direction. 

“These tactics are part of a longer lineage in the ways in which Black people and other marginalized communities have been dispossessed of their right to vote. It’s just a more sophisticated version of the voter suppression tactics of yesteryear,” said Dr. Niambi Carter, a political science professor at Howard University and the author of “American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship”. 

 “These tactics work which is why they are in use. They have been tried and tested and proven to decrease voter turnout and this is why they’re being employed,” she continued. 

Forms of voter suppression are also disproportionately affecting Black Americans. These strategies are noted to have been implemented after the fifteenth amendment was enacted in order to prevent Black Americans from voting. It is apparent that great attempts have always been made to suppress the Black vote. 

“Voter purges are some of the most pernicious tools used to keep Black Americans away from the ballot box and we have seen these efforts increase and proliferate across the country,” Carter said.

“As a result, we see many Black people around the country, but also students and others, be pushed off the rolls. In Wisconsin alone, over 200,000 Black people were purged from voter rolls. Donald Trump won Wisconsin by less than 23,000 votes,” Carter continued. 

The goal of voter suppression is to influence the outcome of an election. These tactics take away from the idea of a democracy. By essentially dictating how the election goes, those encouraging voter suppression are preventing U.S. citizens from choosing who represents them. 

“The goal of voter suppression, regardless of the people being suppressed, is to control who is in power. Black people, as a collective unit, typically vote more liberal. Those in power are extremely conservative so it is of special interest to keep those who oppose them suppressed,” said Alexandra Trahan, the secretary of the Howard University College Democrats. 

“They have a need to preserve their own interests and until Black people align with the interests of those in power, we will always be suppressed” 

Despite the inconveniences that voter suppression tactics bring about, many dedicated voters have decided to push through.

“The country, that prides itself on its democratic principles, should be disgusted that this is an experience of some Americans,” said Trahan. It is incredibly sad but, I will say that I am encouraged by the people of my generation and all of those who are challenging these tactics and making commitments to voting nonetheless”

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