4 Shameful Ways The Voting System Suppresses Black And Latino Communities

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Voter Suppression Is Silencing Blacks And Latinos
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Voter suppression is a ghostly presence that is not explicitly visible, yet it haunts the November elections.

Just like the Jim Crow laws of the 19th and 20th centuries, structural discrimination puts a barrier between Black and Latino voters and the ballot box.

Across the U.S restrictive voting measures manipulate political outcomes and poorly reflect the will of the people. America’s democratic promise remains unfulfilled. 

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Voter suppression most likely helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. Racially biased election laws favored Republican candidates, an academic study has shown.

Rulings in states like Alabama, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin placed heavy restrictions on their ID requirements, making it difficult for voters who couldn’t afford for IDs to be processed on time. Texas allowed for gun permits to be used, but not student IDs.

These factors (and more) meant that almost half of eligible voters didn’t make it to the polls. The 2016 elections, like most elections, were not a fair fight. 

In 2020, the odds remain stacked against Blacks and Latinos. Last week, as the 2020 primaries greeted voters with long waits and malfunctioning voting machines, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund reported that Black voters, on average, wait 45 percent longer to vote than white voters, while Latino voters wait 46 percent longer.

In an election year that has highlighted racist policing, and has seen the deaths of more Latino and Black people from the coronavirus than any other racial group, it is more important than ever that the voices of these minority communities be heard and represented in Office.

Yet, significant barriers are inhibiting any real changes from being made by voters.

How is voter suppression present in Black and Latino communities present?

Here are just some of the ways in which voting laws discriminate against Blacks and Latinos.

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1. Voter ID laws

Over 21 million U.S. citizens do not own a government-issued form of photo identification, restricting their ability to vote in the 36 states that require ID. IDs can be expensive and require a lot of documents that many people cannot obtain.

People from low-income backgrounds may not have a fixed address or the funds that are required to obtain IDs. Black and Latino are statistically less wealthy than other racial groups, making them the most vulnerable to these restrictive laws.

Even for voters who do manage to register, transport costs can deter many when it comes to voting day. This year, coronavirus has caused many polling stations to be closed down, meaning many have further to travel in order to cast their ballot.

In the primaries, Milwaukee voters were forced to commute to just 5 polling stations, compared to 180 in previous years. Many are unable to afford to travel or can’t take the time off work to wait in long queues. 

2. Felons being denied the right to vote

In many states, a felony charge comes with an even heavier penalty than jail time: the loss of your right to vote.

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These laws vary by state, meaning some ban voting only during incarceration, some ban until probation or parole is complete, some ban voting for life, and some do not restrict voting at all. This alone adds to the confusion around voting that prevents many from even registering, believing they are not eligible.

Most of these laws were established in the Jim Crow era when legislators were actively trying to prevent Black Americans from exercising their newly obtained right to vote, making outdated, racist laws that serve no purpose other than to sway election results.

Given that Black people and Latinos are incarcerated at significantly higher rates than white people (even for the same crimes), they are impacted by felony disenfranchisement more than any other group.   

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3. Voter purges

Cleaning up the voter registry is a necessary part of any democratic system in order to remove voters who have died, moved, or are no longer eligible to vote. But when these purges are based on inaccurate data that targets minority communities, this process undermines the democratic system it’s claiming to protect.

Just last year, an attempted voting purge in Ohio was wrong about 20 percent of the voters listed.

One recent study also found that an increase in purges caused over 16 million voters to be eliminated from the register between 2014 to 2016. The same study states that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination purge at higher rates than other districts.

Purging voters based on a change of address actively targets those in low-income brackets who do not have fixed housing. For many voters, election day is the first time they hear that they have been removed from the register, by which time it is too late for them to reapply.   

4. Gerrymandering

This undemocratic process stifles the voices of minority communities.

With each new census, population data is used to redraw district lines and allocate an appropriate number of state legislators and Congress representatives to each area. In theory, this should lead to fair representation, but in practice, this process manipulates voting outcomes.

The Trump administration attempted to include a citizenship question that would have deterred immigrants and mixed-status households from filling out their census this year. These kinds of restrictive questions mean the redrawing of district lines is based on manipulated data that does not reflect actual statistics.     

Protect your ability to vote by knowing your rights. Check out this guide so you’re informed and prepared for the upcoming elections.      

RELATED: How Racism Keeps Black Americans In Debt

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.