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Voter Suppression and the Wilting of American Democracy

By Cameron Gonzales
Cameron Gonzales

America was founded upon the principles of representative democracy, and is globally recognized for the strength of our system. While voter suppression has played a large part into our history, it has become more blatant in recent years. The rule of one person, one vote, no longer applies to everyone. Especially low-income and minority voters.

The fifteenth amendment of the Constitution states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The founders envisioned a country that valued deliberation and exercise of civic duty through voting. So why wouldn’t we want everyone to vote?

Voter suppression allows for politicians to choose their voters, instead of the other way around. This happens in numerous ways, with the largest being Gerrymandering, absence of early voting opportunities, and restricted voter registration drives. Gerrymandering is a process of manipulating district boundaries in order to favor one party or politician over another on the basis of race, income, or culture. At least one state will be required to re-district before the 2020 election due to partisan gerrymandering.

In thirteen states, early voting is not available. As New Mexicans, we get to enjoy the ease of early voting as opposed to the long lines for day-of voting. When there is no early voting option, people with hourly wage jobs are hurt the most. By not allowing for early voting, less of the minority vote is represented in our electoral decisions. This should not be tolerated in the strongest democracy in the world.

The best way to allow for the participation of low-income and minority voters in the electoral process is to have regular voter registration drives. Census data points to the fact that Hispanic and African-American voters being twice as likely as white voters to register through voter registration drives. I myself benefited from voter registration drives when the League of Women Voters came to my high school to register everyone to vote. It is through the dedication of chapters like these that the democratic process is kept alive and well.

To combat voter suppression, thereby strengthening our democracy, we should expand programs and initiatives that make the ballot box easier to access. There is no one solution to the problem, but helpful factors would be expanded national early voting, user-friendly voter registration, easily accessible voting locations, and the elimination of laws that serve no electoral purpose other than to discourage likely voters. The electoral process should be as accessible as possible, because without which, our claim to be a democratic state is unsubstantiated.

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