Following the results of the Presidential Election, Georgia voted blue, once again, on Jan. 5, electing Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to serve as state representatives in the US Senate. This political victory for Democrats comes after years of voter registration organization by Stacy Abrahams, a former State Democratic House leader, and other unyielding activists. These community leaders have fought against voter suppression to turn Georgia blue, exposing the American voting procedure for what it is: a corrupt system that disproportionately harms people of color.
Since Jim Crow, political figures have worked to disenfranchise voters of color through laws. Landmark decisions like the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder US Supreme Court case that got rid of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 only worsened the problem. Voter suppression does not look like it once did. Before this act, it came in the form of literacy and citizenship tests, poll taxes, life-threatening intimidation, and the loss of job opportunities. It has now emerged as less obvious, but just as problematic, practices, including gerrymandering, ID laws, and the closure of poll places, that contribute to voter suppression.
Poll place closings lead to severe issues; when voting, people of color are often left to wait in long lines that make it more difficult for them to cast votes, like in the Georgia run-offs. Since 2013, Georgia’s list of restricted voters has grown by over two million people; however, their polling places have been reduced by 10 percent. These cutbacks significantly affect metro Atlanta counties, where four out of the five new voters are people of color.
In terms of voter ID laws, it is clear that people of color are most heavily affected. Many states considered implementing laws that would force voters to have a government-issued photo ID to vote. While it seems like a simple request, over 11 percent of American citizens do not have one; these are disproportionately low-income ethnic and racial minorities. They cannot get one because they do not have the money or the documents required to obtain an ID. Without one, they would not be allowed to vote.
Another issue is gerrymandering: the drawing of lines to manipulate boundaries. It allows officials to predetermine the outcome of state and federal representative elections, stopping votes from counting. Political figures use gerrymandering to benefit their party. On Jun. 27, 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled that partisan redistricting is out of the hands of the federal government. While redrawing districts is not illegal, when it silences some voices and amplifies others, it becomes an issue.
It is clear that voter suppression disproportionately affects BIPOC. We must remedy this injustice because every American deserves their right to have their vote counted.
(Sources: CNN, ABC News, NPR, ACLU)