Voting Obstacles Then and Now
Posted by Jessica Morgan
November 8, 2016
Social media outlets have become major instruments to explore people’s deepest thoughts during this election cycle. Many people, some of them trolls, utilize social media as a mic to air out personal feelings about the election, whether they are positive or negative (which most of them are). Throughout the election cycle, there have been discuss over the voting obstacles that various groups of people face across the nation. One thing that has stood out is the idea of voter suppression among people of color and other members of marginalized groups. Concepts, such as this one, are quite familiar, especially during the start of the Jim Crow era where black men were granted the right to vote through the passage of the 15th amendment. However, we all know that just because a law says that disenfranchisement is unlawful, there are always ways to bypass this.
The first example of a voting obstacle is the poll tax. During the Jim Crow era, many local and states laws required Black people and other minorities to pay a hefty poll tax in order to restrict voting rights. In many instances, the poll tax would be used in conjunction with a literacy test to ensure that Black people are properly disenfranchised. In modern society, we can compare these obstacles to the voter identification laws that have been passed over the last few years ago. Although this modern day version of the poll tax can be used to prevent voter fraud, it also requires people of color who don’t have IDs to purchase some, such as the elderly and young people. These voter identification laws impose financial burden and time on potential voters, which those with more access to socioeconomic resources are more than likely able to afford.
Another obstacle is voter intimidation.
In the Jim Crow era, white southerners would typically wait at the polls for blacks to arrive in order to pressure them to vote for a certain candidate. Many of the candidates would be the very ones that believe in the oppression of people who were considered inferior by law at that time. They would use violence and other harsh techniques to deter black men at the time from voting at the polls. In modern day society, we have varying degrees of voter intimidation. An example of voter intimidation today is seen on social media sites from keyboard warriors who threaten the lives or attempt to restrict the rights of people who don’t support their candidate, like below.
These keyboard warriors typically are internet trolls, who nine times out of ten have eggs as their Twitter profiles, but their threats and lack of civility are evident of how far our county has to come.
One of the biggest obstacles that suppresses votes is the minimization of polling locations. During the Jim Crow era, many black families traveled several hours to days to get to the polling locations. We can see a replica of this today where some states are trying to minimize the amount of polling locations, which explicitly targets black and other marginalized communities. After the Supreme Court severely weakened the Voting Rights Act, states have had the ability to pass laws that restrict voting and that has resulted in 868 polling locations that have closed. In the case Feldman v. Arizona, Feldman and the Clinton and Sanders’ Democratic campaigns claimed that Arizona did not provide an adequate amount of polling places since many people have to wait in line for hours. By setting up only a few polling locations, it makes people feel as if only a select few are making a decision for everyone.
Overall, it is important to know that everyone’s vote matters, despite who or what you vote for. By not voting, we are erasing the past experiences that many people endured to get to this point. Our collective experience as a nation depends on everyone’s engagement in the voting process. So get out there and vote your conscience!
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