Remember when you head to the polls for November’s elections: any effort, either legal or illegal, by way of law, administrative rules, and/or tactics that prevents eligible voters from registering to vote or voting is called “voter suppression.”
Voter suppression is an assault on our civil rights and a threat to a legitimate representational democracy. We must hold all politicians accountable. Here are some of the voter suppression tactics you may encounter at the polls.
Barriers to voter registration make it harder for Americans to participate in our democracy. Ending Election Day registration and same-day registration imposes limits to voter registration drives, as well as reduces opportunities for voters to register.
SVREP recommends you register to vote before the deadline to register to vote for the November 3, 2020 elections. You can register to vote any time, however, most states have deadlines for each election cycle. The voter registration deadline for Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas is October 5th. Check our website or your Election Office.
Use the SVREP website link to learn about the deadlines and to register to vote: https://www.svrep.org/register-to-vote
There are 39 states that grant online voter registration!
Strict Voter ID laws require voters to present a government-issued photo ID to vote.
Election officials use false claims of rampant voter fraud to justify strict requirements like a photo ID, often aimed at suppressing the votes of people of color and younger voters.
SVREP recommends that you Check with your County Election Office to make sure you are registered to vote and that your address matches the allowable ID required. IF the address does not match, either go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new one, or register to vote. Keep an eye on the deadlines.
Remember most states provide alternative identification, like utility bills.
Under the guise of reviewing voter rolls to remove duplicate names, the names of deceased individuals, or those with standing felony convictions, officials have undertaken indiscriminate “purges” of voter lists in recent years, deleting millions of eligible voters’ names, often with a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
SVREP recommends you check you with your elections office to make sure you are registered to vote. If your name is not on the voting list, re-register to vote.
Register to vote using the SVREP link: https://www.svrep.org/register-to-vote
Plan and be prepared.
In every state, but two, voters automatically lose their right to vote when they are convicted of a felony.
Individuals who have been charged with a felony. Can vote after they have completed your prison sentence as well as other requirements. Once all requirements are met, these men and women can register and vote.
Plan and check in with the election office if you have questions on this. State laws vary by state. Check and make sure. Do not lose your opportunity to vote because you are not sure.
The English-language requirements are no longer in place, but that does not mean local jurisdictions are providing adequate translations and resources for non-English speakers. Voting rights groups regularly receive reports, at the local level, that describe a lack of language translation assistance as required by law. This lack of accommodations creates a consistent obstacle for language minorities in Latino and Asian communities to vote.
We recommend that your check with your Elections office.
A recent USA Today analysis found that election officials have closed thousands of polling places, disproportionately affecting communities of color. The COVID-19 pandemic is not helping this situation. Elections offices may have issues staffing the polling locations, and others might be using it as an excuse to disproportionately decrease the number of polling sites in Latino, Black, and Asian communities reside.
For example, Chicago’s Cook County, home of the largest non-Hispanic black population in the country, had 95 polling places moved or closed.
We recommend that you vote by mail (VBM) where possible, or vote early to avoid any issues. In states where early voting or VBM are not available, we recommend that you take a chair, plenty of water, warm clothing, and stay in line until you vote.
Remember, you must be allowed to vote if you are in line before the polls close.
Federal law allows voters, whose eligibility is in question, to use a provisional ballot to be counted once the voter is confirmed to be eligible. However, localities set their own rules in how many provisional ballots to print, and train poll workers on processing them, resulting in eligible voters turned away or their ballots discounted.
We strongly recommend that you make sure you are registered to vote, find your polling place, take the required ID, and stay in line. We recommend that you avoid using provisional ballots if you can. Your vote is important, let’s make sure it is counted.
States and localities have long used early voting to reduce Election Day crunch and open the process to prospective voters bound by work or other commitments. Faith-based groups have also used early voting for nonpartisan get-out-the-vote efforts. Recently, officials across the nation have curtailed early voting, largely hitting communities of color.
Like limiting early voting sites, reducing voting hours can make voting less convenient, and even impossible, for many voters. Low-income and working-class people often have less freedom to arrive late or leave early from work, or to take a break from their shifts in the middle of the day. Parents with inflexible childcare arrangements can be similarly impacted.
Be prepared for less voter sites and less hours.
Poll workers need good training to follow the policies dictated by election law. Improper training can cause situation that bars a voter from their right to vote.
Our country’s highly decentralized election system hands the responsibility for managing elections to state and local administrators. Some partisan officials have a clear interest in election outcomes and will try to influence the elections. Too often, this results in efforts to suppress the votes of groups that might be viewed as opponents.
For example, SVREP has received complaints from voters we have registered that their voting place “could not find their registration.” Upon further investigation, we will often find that there are no issues with their registration, and that the voters have been lied to. We recommend to these voters to tell the officials at the voting sites that they will contact “the press.” That normally solves the situation, with the election site personnel immediately “finding” their registration.
SVREP recommends you to know you are registered. You should check the elections office before the voter registration deadline. As a last resort, you can always ask them to find you or you “will call the press.”
An at-large election covers voters across a city or county, in contrast to smaller district elections, which can often result in higher representation for people of color since votes are not diluted by an area-wide population. As a result, some officials create at-large districts to limit the influence of minority communities.
This is part of the ongoing challenges SVREP has in California using the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). SVREP is transforming municipalities, school districts, and water boards from at-large voting systems to single member districts. The election transformation provides an opportunity for Latinos to elect candidates of choice. There have been many success stories and multiple instances of local “first Latino elected Official" or "first Latina school board member."
SVREP has transformed over 100 jurisdictions using the CVRA.
Gerrymandering is the process by which a political group tries to change a voting district to create a result that helps them or hurts their opposition. They do so during the redistricting process every decade. Every decade, a census count is made to get an updated sense of the demographics of each area. The political group in power can abuse this process by drawing lines that will give them narrow majorities in areas when they should not have them. They can also dilute their opposition’s voter power by condensing those voters into fewer areas.
SVREP is preparing for another round in 2021. In 2011, SVREP sued Texas under the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force. Texas Latinos started with 7 Latino-majority congressional districts. As a result of the suit, Texas gained 2 more congressional seats to bring the total to 9. Texas population grew by 4.3 million compared to the 2000 census count. Texas won the largest number of new congressional districts – 4. Other states lost congressional districts, including IL, KS, MI, NY, and PA. Florida gained 2 new congressional districts and Arizona gained 1 new congressional district.
Texas is expected to gain 3 to 4 new congressional districts. However, this will only become a reality if everyone completes the U.S. Census form by September 30th.