BY CHRIS GOMES
The process of voting is older than the nation itself. Voting is ingrained in our culture and is illustrated as a fundamental right for each eligible citizen to partake in.
One would assume that with the right to pick the next leaders in government offices, voting would be an extremely popular action. But that could not be further from the truth. Voter turnout in the United States trails those of other developed countries, with only 56% of eligible voters participating in elections.
Despite an already low turnout, some politicians and government leaders attempt to wrongfully restrict the numbers by suppressing voters with the notion of “voter fraud” and “election security,” ranging from unobstructive voter identification (ID) laws to the purging of voter rolls (lists of eligible voters) and entire system disenfranchisement.
Political leaders have purged voter rolls somewhat frequently in recent years. A “use it or lose it” system has been instituted in several states, in which those who have not voted in recent elections lose their registration and have to reapply with little notice of the action. Purging of voter rolls is originally intended to clean the lists of those who have died, been imprisoned, have moved to another state or are legally incompetent of voting.
Incumbent leaders should not be allowed to purge eligible voters based on their political status.
However, recent actions of roll purging seem to be incredibly impactful, with over 16 million voters purged from rolls between 2014 and 2016, even affecting racial minorities the most. A single purge can stop hundreds of people from voting and in an election where every vote counts, this can be disastrous. Incumbent leaders should not be allowed to purge eligible voters based on their political status.
As horrific as it sounds to remove eligible voters from voting rolls, it only appears that politicians and leaders are more focused on continuing the practice rather than preventing it. In fact, many politicians seem to be more focused on limiting the amount of people that can vote by making larger issues out of smaller concerns.
For example, President Donald Trump has magnified the idea of “voter fraud,” referring to when non-citizens vote in the elections. Trump has frequently furthered the idea that 3 to 5 million non-citizens voted in the 2016 election. Because of this, he has justified states’ actions to suppress the vote by purging voter rolls and voter ID laws, limiting voting solely off of speculation and a concern that is much smaller than he depicts it to be. In fact, this voter fraud that President Trump talks about is extremely rare and basically nonexistent, so it has become somewhat of a phantom threat.
In fact, this voter fraud that President Trump talks about is extremely rare and basically nonexistent, so it has become somewhat of a phantom threat.
Voter suppression also happens when politicians in office impose restrictions on voting regulations that have already been established. In Florida, for example, a section of eligible voters are able to vote due to Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. This allows people who have had prior felony convictions to have their voting rights restored– unless it was a violent or sexual offense– upon completing their sentence. The measure was approved by a majority of the state, garnering over 65% approval.
However, Governor Ron DeSantis has made measures to restrict those who are affected, by requiring them to pay court-ordered financial obligations associated with their convictions before being given the right to vote. This measure essentially contradicts the approval of Amendment 4 by Floridians. Forcing people convicted with felonies to pay their obligations before being able to vote is yet another attempt at suppressing the vote by a biased politician.
Voter suppression appears in all shapes and variations. Some may be considered minimal, like voter ID laws. Others, though, can have a drastic effect on voter turnout, including the purging of voter rolls, pedalling an idea of voter fraud or completely negating what the people have chosen for voting regulations.
Incumbent leaders and politicians should not be able to use their power to decide if they get to stay in power or not.
For more resources on how to vote in the 2020 General Election as a registered voter in Broward County, visit browardsoe.org.
Illustration by Sofie Kahlig