The Case of North Carolina and Why We need to Start Talking about Voter Suppression
The role of voter restriction tactics in the 2016 Election
May 22, 2017 at 8:25 pm
We have all been trying to make sense of Trump’s victory since November 8th 2016. No one really thought that he would win. But he did, and naturally, America wants to know why.
Fingers are being pointed in all directions. And many of these fingers, at Black voters.
Within the Black community, many have speculated that because some of us refused to choose between Hillary and Trump – we unknowingly placed votes directly into Trump’s hands. More recently, Brookings Institute released data showcasing that the Black voter turnout did, in fact, take a pitfall in the recent election. Not only was Black voter turnout low in national statistics, but it was also low in key swing states.
“Among minority groups, black Americans showed the sharpest decline in voter turnout– 7.1 percent since 2012. At 59.6 percent, it was the lowest black turnout rate since 2000.”
When you combine the speculation with this data, it becomes very easy to place the blame on the Black community. But I didn’t buy it. Something just did not add up to me. And it turns out that I had every right to feel this way.
Let’s dig deeper
We often tell people to go out and vote, because it will make a difference. But we rarely sit back and think about those that are inhibited from doing so. Lawmakers actually go out of their way to prevent specific demographics from voting.
Voter suppression was rampant when freed slaves were finally allowed to vote. Grandfather clauses, literacy tests, poll taxes, and even lynching were all tactics used to prevent Black individuals from exercising their rights. Today, voter suppression tactics have not dwindled, they are simply manifesting in different ways.
“We have not ended racial caste in America, we have simply redesigned it”- Michelle Alexander
Don’t believe it? Let’s take a look at one of the key swing states- North Carolina. Not only did North Carolina cancel the registration votes for thousands of people, but it also made sure that there were 27 fewer places to vote on Election Day.
In addition, the NAACP sued the state back in October over practices that would prevent constituents, mainly working-class Black families, from voting.
“Turn voting into a bureaucratic nightmare by eliminating popular time-savers such as same-day registration and early voting. Require photo identification to vote, using IDs that many people don’t have or cannot pay for. The harder it is to vote, especially for people juggling some combination of work, classes, and child or elder care, the fewer people will.”
Fortunately, the Supreme Court just ruled that North Carolina is guilty of racial gerrymandering.
Where do we go from here?
North Carolina isn’t the only state guilty of such tactics; there were a total of 14 states that implemented restrictive voter laws for the general election. If we want our representatives to truly represent us- all of us, we need to start paying attention to the ways that barriers are constructed to prevent specific communities from voting.
We poured our sweat, blood, and tears into the voting rights act of 1965, but it's time to acknowledge that we have a lot more work to do.