By Ruby Liles
As voter suppression is used as a tactic to sway elections, is your voice being suppressed? Chances are, if you’re a young woman, a young liberal, or African-American someone is trying to take away your vote. Tatler asks, how do states contribute to this issue, and what does it mean for the 2016 election?
Donald Trump recently described his election tactics as a “sophisticated voter suppression effort” and a senior official of the Trump team publicly elaborated, “We have three major voter suppression operations underway. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African-Americans.” These three groups are pretty dominantly represented here at St. Mary’s, and I think we’re all pretty curious about how and why anyone thinks he can keep us from voting once we turn eighteen.
Many states have restrictive voting laws in place, such as elimination of same-day registration, early voting cutbacks, voter ID restrictions, and dual-registration systems. These laws make it more difficult for specific groups of people to exercise their most integral right as citizens, voting. This system of voter restrictive law-making is called voter suppression, and it’s much more common in states that are likely to vote Republican.
College students and people of color usually vote blue and many would argue that the state passes these voter suppression laws in an effort to keep Republican states like Tennessee from going blue,. In Tennessee, the most common of these laws is the voter ID restriction. Here, the only acceptable IDs at the voting booth are a Tennessee driver’s license with a photo, a United States Passport, a Photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, a Photo ID issued by the federal or Tennessee state government, a United States Military photo ID, or a Tennessee handgun carry permit with a photo. This list leaves out student IDs, library cards with photos, and any other city-issued ID.
You may be wondering how only allowing certain forms of identification suppresses people from voting. Well, take people in poverty, for example. Regardless of economic status, we are all constitutionally guaranteed the right to vote. By making only certain forms of ID that are only accessible to certain people the only acceptable form of ID, the right to vote is indirectly stripped from everyone else. Many impoverished people take the bus or other forms of public transportation, and therefore don’t have a driver’s license. Many struggle with figuring out how to get to the grocery store, much less leaving the country, and don’t have a passport either. Additionally, photo IDs issued by the Tennessee government cost money and are difficult to access. The two most easily accessed and common forms of identification, the library card and student ID, are not valid for voting, but a handgun carry permit is, which keeps wealthy, pro-gun people at the forefront of the Tennessee voting population.
The state says that these laws prevent voter fraud, but many argue that voter fraud is too minute and insignificant of an issue to justify voter suppression. According to The Hill, exaggerated voter fraud claims coming from Republicans during election seasons have been pretty common since the 90s because, generally speaking, high voter turnout usually benefits Democrats. It is true that voter fraud is bound to happen, but, in reality, it happens only in trivial and arguably unimportant amounts. This might be because voter fraud is a pretty risky business, seeing as it’s such a severely punishable crime.
For a long time, states have gotten away with voter suppression because they could justify it by saying it prevents voter fraud. Donald Trump’s team has not been afraid to come right out and say that he is using voter suppression to keep women, people of color, and liberals away from the voting booth, and the scary thing is, a lot of people still support him. This election will determine a lot of things - the Supreme Court, immigration reform, foreign policy, the economy, women’s rights, and so on. And hopefully, ending voter suppression will be a focus of the next president as well.