I’m not one to deny the importance of voting, of inhibiting that civic right to exercise a vote, or to cast a ballot that is symbolically representative of what is seen as an American duty. To be quite honest, I don’t see the act of voting as important as the people’s access to be able to vote--I am intimately acquainted with being disappointed with the voting process that functions in this country. Regardless, while I would advocate for a voting process that is akin to proportional representation, rather than majority-rule, I am one to demand justice where it begs to be demanded, and pinpoint injustices where I see them, and voting access is such a matter.
People often interpret racial divides as being based on locale, inequities, or institutionalized discrimination. Indeed, racial divides are deeply rooted in the historic practice of unequal treatment of minorities, and voting access is no exception. From the beginning of this nation’s history, discrimination has always been an ugly presence in the election process. First, it was women. Then, it was African-Americans. But today, it’s the minorities, the lower-income, and the less-educated. Discrimination in the election process still seeps into our democracy, but it is hidden under an unnoticed veil no one ever bothers to lift.
Practices such as reducing the number of polling places in locations that are known to be housing primarily minority voters, have been documented by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In addition, redistricting has also been shown to weaken the minority voting power, specifically aimed at securing more votes for the conservative party, since minority-groups tend to vote more liberally. Small, almost invisible aggressions also add to the continued discrimination in the voting process; information about registration, and the correct procedural format for voting, has been reported to be withheld from specific minorities.
Even more notable, in 2016, fourteen changes in state laws took place that can be correctly interpreted as restricting minority access to voting; the riveting aspect of these novel laws is that, on the surface, they do not seem to be discriminatory, rather, they adopt a semblance of being standard protocol. It’s when you actually consider the impacts the laws have on minority voters that the discrimination becomes glaringly evident. These laws include (1) requiring a photo ID to vote (which affects specific minorities since they are less likely to have one), decreasing early voting days and the times (which provides a narrower window for all voters, decreasing the number of voters), and requiring proof of citizenship (which, obviously, minorities are also less likely to have).
What’s even more misleading is when politicians--such as Donald Trump--claim that millions of people vote illegally in elections. Frankly, voter fraud is a myth, as claimed by the Brennan Center for Justice (2). Such claims of voter fraud allow these harsh and restrictive legislation that disadvantages minorities to pass.
Voting is intrinsic to the democratic process, and its importance should never be underestimated. But even so, institutionalized discrimination that is deeply ingrained into the American government should never be underestimated, as well. It’s this discrimination that is doing a disservice to millions of minorites nationwide. The hard truth is, voting isn’t the bearer of equality it is presented as in this country; from the discrimination, institutionalized racism to the built-in loopholes preventing certain minorities from voting, it’s apparent that voting is an issue that requires our attention.