Voter suppression is alive and well. It's infesting our neighborhoods, living right in our backyards and greatly impacting communities of color. Clear signs of voter suppression tend to include voter ID requirements, felon disenfranchisement, limited access to early voting, and closure of polling stations — all of which restricts accessibility. There were plenty of claims of voter suppression seen during this past midterm election. For instance, in Georgia, there were reports of broken machines, long lines, and absentee ballots that were allegedly not counted.
Voter suppression has been tactic used against Black people since we first got the right to vote. That being said, there are still ways one can take action to defend their voting rights. You don't have to be a politician to fight for your people. Here are four simple ways you can fight voter suppression even if you're not in politics.
1. Support Local and National Organizations Focused on Fighting the Tactics
Find out and support organizations centered on working toward stopping voter suppression. By doing a little research, you can discover what groups are focused on protecting voter rights in your community.
In Atlanta, the New Georgia Project works with local and national civil rights organizations to defend voting rights and advocate for policies that expand access to voting. The staff and volunteers also organize in churches, on college campuses, and at their neighbors’ front doors to ensure folks are able to exercise their right to vote.
There are also national organizations like VoteRiders, which is a nonpartisan, non-profit primarily focused on voter identifications. The organization works to educate voters on ensuring they have the correct form of ID to successfully vote in their state.
2. Help Make Election Day a Federal Holiday
If government buildings, schools and workplaces are required to close on Election Day, many more people would be more inclined to vote. For many, between work and school comes commutes, traffic, long hours and sometimes just not enough time to do "other" things, taking the time to vote can simply become a hassle, especially for those who do not have the leisure of time.
John Conyers, a former Michigan state representative, proposed legislation in 2016, to make Election Day a federal holiday. Senator Bernie Sanders also introduced a bill that pushed Election Day as “Democracy Day,” which would also be considered a federal holiday. Anyone can sign up to support Sanders' bill here.
3. Work at the Polls
Representation matters, especially when it's evident in those working at polling stations. Recently on State of the Culture, Joe Budden and his co-hosts reflected on midterm election results. Scottie Beam made a point regarding representation at the polls. "It's important to have people there that won't turn you away," the TV personality said. "Make sure people are comfortable, too."
Oftentimes, Black people take care of Black people. The more we're represented at the polls, the more we can ensure folks have the opportunity to exercise their right. We saw the importance of this in the last election in Texas, when a white election judge screamed at a Black woman, telling her to leave the early polling, all because she was confused about where to vote.
4. Host a Voter Registration Drive
You don't have to be a politician to register voters. Celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z, are also civilians, and they took matters into their own hands by having folks register to vote during their OTR II concert tour.
There are also countless websites with instructions on how to organize your own drive, such as the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, which provides a how-to guide for building a team of dedicated volunteers, getting the necessary supplies and publicizing your event.
It’s imperative to realize we can make a difference on our own, and do not have to wait on city council or Congress to do it for us. With these suggestions for advocating against voter suppression in mind, grab your friends, family and others who might be interested in contributing to the betterment of their communities, and bring us one step closer to a more fair and equitable democracy.
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