What Is Voter Suppression?

What Is Voter Suppression - Voter Suppression Facts Bills Laws Statistics Examples

Voter suppression gets used by politicians to manipulate elections. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • which Southern, Republican states have the worst voter suppression
  • which states uphold the best voting rights for their citizens
  • what is voter suppression
  • some extreme voter suppression examples
  • how voter suppression targets minority groups
  • how voter suppression benefits the affluent
  • how legislations use Gerrymandering to manipulate voting

Let’s dig in.

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What Is Voter Suppression?

Voter suppression is undue limitations on a citizen’s ability to vote.

These are government policies and tactics to limit citizens from having voting access.

And they are any measures or strategies whose purpose is to:

  • reduce voting from a group
  • reduce the ability to register to vote
  • target racial, political, and religious groups

Recently, there have been many debates on whether these voting laws:

  • promote voter suppression, or;
  • promote and preserve presidential election integrity

Why Voter Suppression Matters

Polling places have made voting more difficult on election days over the years.

States reduce voter turnout by restricting voting access.

Some voter suppression tactics they use are:

  • putting barriers in front of ballot boxes
  • creating stricter photo ID requirements
  • reducing voting times
  • restricting voter registration
  • purging voter rolls
  • creating long lines
  • making inaccessible to those with disabilities

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court passed the Voting Rights Act.

This placed special burdens on:

  • racial minorities
  • ethnic groups
  • political groups (republican or democrat)
  • poor people
  • young people
  • older voters

Voter suppression is an attempt to keep people from:

  • registering to vote
  • casting their vote

The U.S. Supreme Court passes these voting laws to “battle voter fraud and illegal voting.”

But studies from Brennan Center show otherwise.

They show that people of color are less likely to meet the voter ID requirements.

Voter suppression was initially targeting black voters.

The 15th Amendment gave African Americans more voting rights.

Southern states passed voting laws to keep black voters from being in U.S. elections.

These states included Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, and Florida.

The laws these southern states passed were the Jim Crow laws.

Jim Crow laws were in place for roughly 100 years.

They included things like literacy tests and poll taxes.

They started in 1865 after slavery got abolished.

And they lasted until 1965 after the Civil War.

They were designed to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to:

  • vote
  • hold jobs
  • get an education

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court removed protections created in the Voting Rights Act.

This was in the Shelby v. Holder case.

Since then, many voting law bills have gotten passed by the state legislature.

These new bills are, again, increasing voter suppression.

And doing so by removing the civil rights of American black voters.

Voter Suppression In U.S. Elections

Making Voter Registration Harder

Strict Voter Registration Laws Oregon Washington Utah Illinois Maryland Hawaii Colorado North Dakota Vermont California

States that make voter registration very easy are:

  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Hawaii
  • Colorado
  • North Dakota
  • Vermont
  • California

These states have:

  • automatic voter registration policies
  • mail-in voting systems
  • early voting
Strict Voter Registration Restrictions Florida Indiana Arkansas Kentucky Carolina New Hampshire Tennessee Mississippi Missouri Georgia Texas

States that make voter registration difficult are:

  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky
  • South Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • Tennessee
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Texas

These southern states make voter registration difficult by:

  • reducing the number of polling places
  • not allowing early voting
  • not doing automatic voter registration

Places like Oregon, Washington, and Utah make voting super easy for their residents.

But these southern states don’t at all.

Let’s look at Georgia, for example.

Georgia enforced an “exact match” law for registering to vote.

Voter registration applications have to exactly match what was on state records.

This meant that voter registrations were getting denied due to things like:

  • missing hyphens and apostrophes
  • single spaces incorrectly added
  • transposed letter

The exact match law eliminated 53,000 voter registrations in Georgia.

And 70% of those denied were black voters.

Gov Brian Kemp signed the House Bill 316 that reversed this exact match law.

Let’s look at Tennessee’s voter suppression examples.

Voter registration drives get many people to vote.

Especially voters who are people of color.

Tennessee passed laws criminalizing voter registration drives by:

  • requiring training and fines
  • charging operators with misdemeanors

Purging Voter Rolls

Registering to vote is the first hurdle of voting access Americans need to overcome.

Then, there is the challenge of remaining registered to vote.

Some states also do voter roll purges.

States remove people who they believe have moved to another state or died.

In 2017, Georgia purged 500,000 people from its voter rolls.

87,000 of those purges re-registered to vote.

This means that they were wrongly purged from the voter rolls.

Because they were still eligible voters in Georgia.

Reports claim that people of color were the majority of these 87,000 people.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is also dealing with this issue.

Wisconsin is trying to purge the voting rights of 130,000 people.

If you get purged, re-register to vote.

Disenfranchisement Of Criminals

Felony disenfranchisement is when felons lose their voting rights.

Some felonies lose their civil rights to vote permanently.

Other felonies can regain their voting rights when they finish their sentences.

These disenfranchisement laws affect people in prison, on parole, and on probation.

But only those who have felony charges.

People with misdemeanors don’t suffer from voter suppression.

Some states permanently disenfranchise felons, like:

  • Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • Iowa

This means people in those states can never regain their voting rights.

Other states allow felons to regain their civil rights to vote.

But only after their sentences get completed.

“Sentences” here indicates:

  • prison time
  • jail time
  • probation
  • parole
  • fees and charges associated with the felony

These felony voting laws got designed to target black voters.

Crimes that African Americans committed the most lost their voting rights.

After completing the sentences, to regain voting rights, felons have to:

  • pay legal fees
  • pay fines

These rules got created as “poll taxes.”

They make it challenging for low-income voters to regain voting rights.

These disenfranchisement laws target people of color in America.

They are experiencing higher rates of:

  • arrest
  • conviction
  • incarceration

It’s estimated that 1 in 13 black voters have lost their rights.

The felony disenfranchisement laws are working as intended.

Eliminating Polling Places

Voter suppression also comes in the form of the availability of polling places.

Many states are shutting down polling places.

This makes it harder for voters to access the polls.

They claim they do this for:

  • improving budgets
  • freeing up staff
  • streamlining elections

Let’s look at Georgia again.

They have eliminated 214 polling stations.

This accounted for 8% of their total polling places.

Most of the locations are in low-income communities with black voters.

Florida focused on redistricting polling stations instead of eliminating them.

But they moved them into more affluent, gated communities.

Redistricting and reducing polling stations is a voter suppression strategy.

It reduces voting access to communities of color.

And it increases the wait time for the voting lines.

Let’s look at Kentucky’s reduction in polling places.

They reduced their locations from 3,700 to 200.

The county with the largest community of black voters only had one polling station.

This is a voter suppression strategy used by election officials.

Restricting Early Voting For Registered Voters

Getting to the voting polls on election days can get tricky.

Especially for voters who work on election days.

Going to poll locations that have long lines can make people miss work.

Because of this, voter turnout is much lower.

This is why early voting got created.

To give people greater voting access.

But some southern states still restrict early voting access.

North Carolina eliminated early voting on the Saturday before the election.

This was their most popular day for voter turnout.

Ohio eliminated early voting during weeknights and Sundays.

This targeted “Souls To The Polls.”

These were black religious organizations that cast their ballots after church services.

Restricting early voting mainly affects communities of color.

Enforcing Stricter Voter ID Requirements

Research from Brennan Center shows that voter fraud is very rare.

But the Senate claims that voter fraud can ruin election integrity.

So, the Senate passes voting laws to make the voter ID requirements more strict.

Strict voter ID laws can reduce voter turnout on election days for:

  • voters with disabilities
  • minority voters
  • young people voting
  • new voters
  • voters in rural areas

Many of these people lack the required IDs to vote.

Up to 25% of black people don’t have a government-issued ID.

But only 8% of white people don’t have an ID.

These voter ID requirements affect black people more than white people.

Let’s look at North Dakota.

Their voter ID requirements state that you must show a street address on your ID.

Native Americans don’t have street addresses.

They have to use P.O. boxes.

They also use Tribal IDs and not government-issued IDs.

These don’t have any addresses on them.

So, Native Americans are unable to vote.

Let’s look at Texas.

They allow eligible voters to use their handgun permits to meet voter ID requirements.

But they cannot use a student ID from college.

This keeps young people from voting.

Because it cuts the voting age off at 21 years old for those young people.

Restricting Mail-In Absentee Ballots

Mail-in absentee ballots are important.

Especially when states are reducing access to voting poll places.

Five states already do a majority of their voting via mail-in ballots.

These include:

  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington

These states have successfully been doing mail-in ballots for years.

But other states are still cautious about operating election days like this.

They believe it will increase voter fraud.

And reduce the election integrity.

Southern states like Texas still have strict policies about mail-in voting.

In Texas, you can only mail-in vote if you:

are 65 years or older

will be out of the country on the election days

are in prison

are disenfranchised

have a disability

Texas keeps passing voter suppression bills like these.

It’s tough for eligible voters to register online too.

This caused voter suppression during the pandemic.

Especially in states like New York that experienced severe lockdowns in the pandemic.

Voter Suppression Examples

Let’s talk about some Georgia voter suppression examples.

Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021

Georgia created the Georgia Election integrity Act in 2021.

This changed the state’s electoral admin processes.

Here’s what Gov Brian Kemp said about the voting laws.

He claims it makes it easier for eligible voters to cast their votes.

And it reduced the chances of voter fraud.

And “increase election integrity.”

Here are some key components of the voting laws in this bill.

  • Voters now only have 78 days to request absentee ballots before election day. It used to be 180 days.
  • Stricter voter ID requirements. Voters can no longer only sign the absentee ballot. They have to send in the numbers on their IDs with their absentee ballots. Some voters don’t have government-issued IDs. They have to include their social security number on the mail-in ballots.
  • Absentee ballots are not allowed to be automatically mailed.
  • The number of ballot box locations to drop absentee ballots got reduced. This reduced access to ballot box locations for people.
  • Mobile voting locations got eliminated. Even if there were adequate poll workers available. Mobile polling places are only allowed during a state of emergency.
  • Early voting got reduced to four weeks before an election day. And only two Saturdays are now available.
  • No one can provide food and drink to early voters. Only poll workers can do so. Early voters can only drink from a fountain on site. This is true even if there are long lines.
  • Absentee ballots can get inspected three weeks before election day. But, they cannot get counted until the poll locations close down.
  • The secretary of state got removed as a voting member.

People fighting for voter’s rights naturally opposed these issues.

They claim that it reduces voting access for people of color.

Stacey Abrams claimed it was a “coordinated onslaught of voter suppression laws.”

These voter suppression tactics focused on restricting voting access for black voters.

It doesn’t say people of color can’t vote.

It says, “we’re restricting things you use to vote.”

These laws got passed while Donald Trump was in office.

Joe Biden claimed these were the Jim Crow Laws of the 21st Century.

Biden claims that Republicans create these voting restrictions to affect black voters.

Even Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center spoke out.

He claimed these voter suppression laws targeted African Americans.

For example, mobile polling places were only used in Fulton County.

Fulton County has the largest black voter population in Georgia.

Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws are simple.

They make an eligible voter present an ID to vote.

Some states have implemented strict voter ID laws.

These are voter suppression tactics.

Because they affect low-income, minority, and disabled populations.

These people are less likely to have a government-issued ID.

ACLU considers this a voter suppression law.

Because it makes people less likely to vote.

These strict voter ID laws offer no fallback options.

This means people who don’t have government-issued IDs cannot vote.

Voter Rolls

Updating voter rolls means eligible voters get removed from the system.

Voting registration purges voter rolls for election days.

Especially after redistricting jurisdictions.

State legislatures don’t want people voting twice.

Information for purging voter rolls usually comes from:

  • Social Security Administration’s Death Master File
  • U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address Database

Inactive voters also get purged by elected officials.

Some people believe this is targeting people of color.

It’s an effective form of voter suppression.

Especially when the number of polling places gets reduced.

And minority voters are less active due to access to ballot boxes.

This may surprise you, but Georgia is a southern state that caught heat for voter purging.

They purged 180,000 people from their voter registrations.

Many of those people improperly purged were African American voters.

Another form of voter suppression comes from Arizona Gov Doug Ducey.

He signed a voter suppression bill for mail-in voting laws.

It stated that people that have not voted for two years were ineligible to mail-in vote anymore.

They got removed from the mail-in voter rolls.

Voter Registration Restrictions

Some states restrict the terms and requirements of voter registration.

This is the most common form of voter restriction examples and laws.

Voter registration restriction includes:

  • requiring documents for citizenship
  • reducing voter registration drives
  • eliminating online voter registration
  • not allowing automatic voter registration
  • reducing the window of time people can register

Politicians hide under the guise of protecting against voter fraud.

The Kansas Secretary of State made people prove their citizenship.

This blocked 30,000+ people from voter registration.

In 2020, the Supreme Court overturned this voter suppression law.

Tennesse is another southern state catching heat for voter suppression laws.

Their law targeted people turning in incomplete voter registration applications.

These people received civil and criminal penalties against them.

The U.S. Supreme Court overruled this voter suppression law, too.

Criminalization of the Ballot Box

Some states use voter intimidation as a voter suppression tactic.

They do this by creating harsh penalties for voters and poll workers.

And those who don’t follow the arbitrary voting requirements get punished.

In Georgia, it’s illegal to pass out food and drinks to voters waiting in long lines.

These forms of voter suppression affect communities of color the most.

Georgia got rid of mobile voting locations.

And they reduced voting locations in certain jurisdictions.

Mainly, this only affects voting access and voter turnout for minority voters.

People believe that these voting laws allow law enforcement to target minorities.

And pass out criminal charges to these individuals.

Redistricting and Gerrymandering

Most states redistrict their jurisdictions every 10 years.

State legislators represent Congress and legislatures with this redistricting.

Proper redistricting reflects:

  • population changes
  • racial diversity

As we know, many states practice voter suppression for people of color.

They use redistricting to manipulate the outcomes of elections.

Especially for presidential elections.

This is gerrymandering, which is a form of voter suppression.

Redistricting lines get redrawn based on Census Data.

In 2020, Donald Trump’s administration tried to add citizenship questions to the Census.

The goal was to use redistricting to reduce the voice of immigrant communities.

This Census data allow the state legislatures to redraw lines around immigrant communities.

ACLU sued the Donald Trump administration and won.

The Donald Trump administration was not allowed to add these questions.

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