WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?
Lately, democracy and democratic ideals, have become synonyms for popular legislation rather than actual democracy procedures. So that begs the question, what is democracy exactly? What makes democracy so much more valuable than a monarchy or aristocracy that also grants many freedoms? A democracy is a government system by the people that gives them the power to make decisions that they believe will best help/impact their society. This procedure of allowing people to make decisions that affect their lives is the key difference between democracy and other government forms. Democracies promote freedom, self-realization, and it is necessary for a society that treats all as equals; how democracies accomplish this is through the power of the vote.
WHO VOTES IN AMERICA?
The centerpiece of a democracy is the fair and equal right to vote. The question becomes, then why do so many Americans not exercise this right? Well, in the United States, many different ethnic and socioeconomic groups have, throughout the years, been negatively impacted by laws and legal practices that have jointly worked to diminish the belief in American political and legal systems. “Voter suppression” is any effort, either legal or illegal, by way of laws, administrative rules, and tactics that prevents eligible voters from registering to vote or voting. There are many examples of Voter Suppression in the United States, most notably was in the Jim Crow South, where Black people endured literacy tests and other racial terrorism that denied their fundamental freedoms for decades. Today in America, we have many different and new forms of voter suppression. For example, poll closures, voter registration problems, voter purges, strict voter ID, and ballot requirements alone have caused havoc in Georgia. As recent as June 9th, when Georgia held their first primary, lower-income black and brown neighborhoods, voters were forced to wait in lines that were 7 hours long.
WHAT’S THE CAUSE?
In 2013 the Supreme court made the landmark decision in Shelby v. Holder, which struck the provisions in the voting rights act that required oversight of election decisions in states with histories of discrimination as unconstitutional. Since then, numerous countries have created new laws and regulations regarding voting locations and voter IDs. This decision had an instantaneous effect since the decision: Georgia’s voter registration has grown by nearly 2 million people, yet polling locations have been cut statewide by almost 10%, according to an analysis of state and local records ( Fausset). The growth of nonwhite voters in Georgia is outgrowing the number of polling places. Shelby’s significance is felt as previously states needed federal approval to close polling places under the Voting Rights Act. In Georgia, the situation is at a dire extreme as the state has nine counties, with nearly half the states active voters, yet only 38% of the polling booths ( Fowler ). The solution is clear, in Georgia, the state needs to open and maintain new polling stations to meet the states’ new voting demand. This should be the first and foremost change to reflect the values of a democracy better.
Voting is the cornerstone of American political society. It is a citizen’s citizens’ civic right and duty to vote. So what do we do if a government attempts to impede on that fundamental civil right? To keep this great nation on tack and functioning as a real democracy, we must pressure local and federal governments to take elections issues like poll closing and voter ID laws seriously. If this trend continues and states, people will lose faith in their government, and the core principle of our democracy as a government for the people, by the people, and of the people, shall perish from this earth.
Bureau, US Census. “Voting in America: A Look at the 2016 Presidential Election.” The United States Census Bureau, 10 May 2017, www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2017/05/voting_in_america.html.
Fausset, Richard, et al. “’I Refuse Not to Be Heard’: Georgia in Uproar Over Voting Meltdown.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/us/politics/atlanta-voting-georgia-primary.html.
Fowler, Stephen. “Why Do Nonwhite Georgia Voters Have To Wait in Line for Hours? Too Few Polling Places.” NPR, NPR, 17 Oct. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/10/17/924527679/why-do-nonwhite-georgia-voters-have-to-wait-in-line-for-hours-too-few-polling-pl.
History.com Editors, History.com Editors. “The Gettysburg Address.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 24 Aug. 2010, www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/gettysburg-address.
Kelly S. McConville. “Accumulating Evidence of the Impact of Voter ID Laws: Student Engagement in the Political Process.” Taylor & Francis, 15 Jan. 2018, amstat.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2330443X.2017.1407721.