Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, voter suppression legislation that targets African American voters, other non-white voters, people who live in large population centers and elderly voters have been passed. From gerrymandering to redistricting, more requirements have been added to vote both in-person and for absentee ballots as the elimination of drop boxes is underway, amongst other efforts.
According to the Brennan Center For Social Justice, in 2021, at least 19 states passed 33 restrictive voter laws and in 2022, the efforts continue. In Georgia, legislation such as Senate Bill 202 limits both early voting and drop box locations. Additionally, it reduces the amount of time voters have to request absentee ballots. There are stringent new ID requirements which allow ballots to be tossed out and people who provide food and water to voters waiting in line are at risk of a misdemeanor charge.
Professor Ravi Perry, the chair of the political science department at Howard University, emphasized the potential threat of voter suppression, stating that many should be concerned about the weaponization of the Constitution.
“These efforts don’t only target African Americans. They target young people, people who live in transient populations like college students, also elderly people, who maybe haven’t driven in 10, 20 years. This is a deliberate effort by the GOP, who have in their own party memos, documented over the past 20 years that they have sought to take over state legislatures because they draw the congressional district lines every ten years,” Perry said.
Redistricting is the act of drawing new electoral districts, and it occurs every 10 years in the United States. Black communities in states like Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arizona have seen Black districts dissolved and combined with white districts effectively taking away Black populations’ power to elect candidates. In Michigan, for example, 10 majority-Black districts were eliminated, according to Bloomberg News.
After the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle, the number of Democratic leaning seats increased, according to politics blog FiveThirtyEight. This fall, cases on redistricting in both North Carolina and Alabama will be heard. The North Carolina Republican-led state legislature is arguing they have the right to go against federal judges who declared the redistricting unconstitutional.
The lack of understanding of this issue along with widespread disinformation from social media is something many Democrats feel must be dealt with, especially in terms of engaging young people. Younger voters, such as David Johnson, a Howard University student and member of the Howard University College Democrats, worry that voter suppression is not widely reported on, causing his peers and him to be politically disengaged.
“A lot of them don’t believe in voting for a variety of reasons, and for those that do believe it is an obligation to look into the details of voters’ rights. My peers are not engerized to vote in the midterms and other elections,” Johnson said.
Black organizations and voting rights groups fighting to combat voter suppression have been at work since last year and are now joining forces. In late July, the official launch of the The National Unity 2022 Black Voting and Power Building Campaign, a campaign with a coalition of over 50 of these groups was announced. The coalition features legacy organizations like the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and National Urban League, along with groups credited for their work on the ground like Black Voters Matter.
Despite hurdles, the New York Times reported that early voting surged in Georgia for the primaries. In preparation for the November primaries, Perry urges Americans to exercise their political right to vote–in spite of suppressive efforts–to institute change in the future.
“You may not care about voting but the system will count you out or count you in depending on your participation…If you’re concerned, don’t just be upset about the system, roll up your sleeves and engage in the system yourself. Not only by voting, not only by protest but educating yourself…..Yes voting does matter, yes the system isn’t perfect, but the system can’t get any better without your participation,” Perry said.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee