Voter suppression as a political weapon

The United States is no stranger to using voter suppression in it’s politics. (RachelH_/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The history of voter suppression demonstrates how it remains one of the most dangerous political weapons used in American politics. From voter identification laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes, to sabotage such as faulty voting machines and locked gates at polling stations, specific groups of American citizens have been continually suppressed from voting.

Originally, only property-owning white males were allowed to vote in the U.S. Although laws have changed to allow historically oppressed groups of citizens such as women and minorities to vote, not everyone has changed with the laws. It is not necessarily true that anyone who is 18 or older, is an American citizen and has met their state’s residency laws can vote. Every two years when elections come back around, obstacles stand in the way of citizens who should be eligible to exercise their right to vote.

In the past few years, conservative governments in the south have introduced new voting restrictions that keep people from the polls and reduce the number of eligible voters. A law passed in 2013 by the Republican majority in North Carolina cut back early voting, eliminated election-day voter registration and imposed unreasonably strict voter ID rules. A lower court in North Carolina stated that the law was discriminatory, as it disproportionately affected black voters. Although the Supreme Court decided not to reinstate that law in future elections, each state holds its own power over voting rights.

Author and Emory University Professor Carol Anderson recently published a new book titled, “One Person, No Vote” where she dives into examples of the continued battles with voting rights. Anderson draws a significant example from the presidential election of 2000, in which George W. Bush won the state of Florida by 537 ballots.

“The 21 century is, in fact, littered with the bodies of black votes. In the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush won in the sunshine state by 537 ballots, Florida kept African Americans from the polls or ensured that their votes would never be added to the state’s tally.

The policing was multi-tentacled. On election day, there were faulty voting machines, purged voter rolls (purges that targeted minorities) and locked gates at polling places that should have been opened. There was also a Florida Highway Patrol checkpoint at the only road leading to the polls in key, heavily black precincts in Jacksonville. Then there were the piles of ballots, especially in counties with large minority populations, left uncounted. The U.S. Civil Rights

Commission “concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by black voters. In Florida,” the commission’s report continued, “a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter.”

When restrictions are placed on our Second Amendment rights, the right to bear arms, such as stricter background checks and prohibitions of specific dangerous weapons, an uproar is imminent. So why is it that when our Fourteenth Amendment rights are violated, there is no noticeable uproar? The tendency of American politicians to suppress voters in order to win elections is a dangerously quiet and corrupt political weapon; without public recognition of these violations and successive swift political action, they will continue to happen.


Emma DeGrandi is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at emma.degrandi@uconn.edu.