Voter suppression tactics have been used in elections for decades but has been widely ignored until recently. Why did it take the outcome of the 2016 election to bring light to the subject and why does it seem like the issue is getting worse, not better? The past four years have been filled with political polarization and turmoil. To many it seems like democracy has failed them, while to others the current political state is, in their opinion, just what the country needs. For those who don’t like the current presidential administration and those who represent them at the state level, and those who support the current presidential administration and those who represent them at the state level, the time to vote is soon approaching; another election is almost upon us. But that isn’t quite true. Those who are unhappy and jointly a part of a minority group will not get to vote.
The prevention of eligible citizens voting is one of many factors that face a diminishing democracy. Many countries who are in danger of major democratic backsliding face specific tactics to prevent specific groups of people from voting. The United States is one of those countries, though not the extreme other countries are. Historically, the United States has dealt with voter suppression issues almost every election cycle since the founding of the country. The most prominent eras of voter suppression like after the Civil War and through the 1960s, targeted black citizens. However, that suppression has spread to other minority groups in recent decades. The tactics being used today may not sound like tactics used in the past to suppress voters, but the end result is the same and just as successful.
During reconstruction, between the years of 1865 and 1877, black voters were often threatened with violence and the threat of losing their jobs when. Years later, literacy tests and ridiculous general knowledge exams were required for majority minority communities. Levitsky and Ziblatt cite Confederate states reforming their constitutions electoral laws to disenfranchise African Americans in How Democracy Dies as well. These tactics prevented minorities from entering the polls and casting their votes; these tactics prevented eligible voters from exercising their democratic right to participate in fair elections. Today, we see the same level of voter suppression, but in other forms. Some include the closing of polling stations in key districts. One of the most contentious tactics is the purging of voter rolls. Eliminated eligible voters, minority voters, who historically support one political party over another, was a contentious topic during the 2018 election. States in the south like Georgia were greatly impacted by the supposed ineligibility of thousands of minority voters. It was found that in Georgia’s case, the people behind the majority of the voter suppression in their 2018 election, were the Republican party. And in several other cases the common culprits were officials with ties to the Republican party. I don’t believe voter suppression has ever stopped. Even after the Voting Rights of 1965, I believe there has been a continuous effort to undermine and suppress black and minority votes. This makes the challenge of stopping voter suppression much harder.
Republicans have historically benefited the most from voter suppression tactics so it wouldn’t be in their party’s best interest to combat it. They should, however, because it is the true democratic way and the alternative, what they have been doing, only feeds a diminishing democracy. They could turn to examples of governments that let unfair elections rule their countries and there are a lot of them. Countries like China and Russia often don’t have fair elections. Some South American countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Paraguay have had issues in the past with fair voting for all their citizens. Other South American Countries don’t have this issue to the same extent because of their compulsory voting laws. These countries might not suppress the voters the same way or intervene in fair elections like the United States, but the intent is the same. Republicans should look at the effect diminishing democracy is having on these countries and acknowledge that voter suppression pays a huge part in that.
Every vote counts and in any democracy that ideal should be uphold. The United States must uphold this fundamental right or watch itself become a victim of more democratic backsliding. That’s not to say the United States will fall apart if this practice continues, but the ideals that make the United States a beacon for democracy are at stake and have been at stake. To continue the suppression of eligible voters, minority voters, for the gain of one political party is wrong and undemocratic and it must be stopped. Though with the results of the past couple of elections it is clear that voter suppression is not going anywhere anytime soon.