So many voices go unheard when voter suppression occurs. It takes a mix of plotting and conniving blended with various forms of bigotry and intolerance, such as institutionalized racism, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the physically challenged. The ultimate goal is to keep members of the non-majority suppressed, so that their votes are never cast, or the votes are disqualified in local and national elections.
Senate Bill 326 (SB 326), the Election Day Integrity Act, is an example of using legal maneuvering to achieve voter suppression. The bill threatens to alter the methods by which voting may be carried out during an election. If enacted, SB 326 will decrease the amount of time that a voter may have to request and return an absentee ballot.
Senate Bill 724 (SB 724), the Expand Access to Voter ID & Voting Act, was recently introduced under the guise of making the State Board website more accessible to vision impaired voters.
While it may seem well-intentioned on the surface, there’s a darker, more sinister side to SB 724 that isn’t readily apparent, especially for the group of voters it is purported to help. Less touted is the fact it would limit funding for certain communities to be able to vote either absentee or in person. With additional tweaking, the bill could ultimately make it so that almost everyone would be ineligible to vote via absentee ballot.
The third and most recently reviewed voter suppression bill in North Carolina is Senate Bill 725 (SB 725), the Prohibit Private Money in Elections Administration Act.
SB 725 would affect not only voters, but employment in relation to elections as well. Without being able to hire temporary poll workers, voting locations will be understaffed and overwhelmed. These changes could limit the number of people who are able to vote in any one space during a limited span of time.
Organizations like Democracy North Carolina are calling voters to action with petitions and open group discussions. Equality NC is another group that is working to protect voter rights. Their campaign, called Safe Voter NC, is dedicated to keeping all people up to date on their rights. This campaign is facilitated by Disability Rights North Carolina and the North Carolina Black Alliance in an effort to create empowered representation for the underrepresented.
According to research published on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website in 2020, COVID-19 has created unprecedented obstacles for LGBTQ people. These obstacles include a lack of transportation to polling locations, difficulty accessing mail-in ballots and issues with employers allowing for time to vote.
Fair Fight and HIT Strategies conducted their study during the 2020 Presidential election to determine the most significant reasons that LGBTQ people vote and the prevalent reasons they don’t vote. The study found that over half of LGBTQ voters believed that former president Donald Trump and various corporations want to keep them from turning in their ballots.
HRC released another report titled “Banned from the Ballot Box: the History of Disenfranchisement Law on LGBT Women of Color,” The research revealed the impact the prison industrial system and homophobia/transphobia can have on each other and on the ability to vote.
The Guidance on Eligibility page of North Carolina’s State Board of Elections’ website informs formerly incarcerated people about their rights to voting. These regulations state that anyone who is serving a felony sentence, is on probation, parole or post-release supervision cannot vote in North Carolina. Not only does this mean that most previously incarcerated people will be unable to vote but it also means that once they are eligible, without someone to inform them, they may never know they can participate in elections again, or they may simply lose interest in doing so.
Misinformation is one of the greatest tools of voter suppression. The HRC study also found that Black or LatinX individuals are often unable to find polling locations due to a lack of resources or time. Transgender individuals have difficultly voting due to voter ID laws which make it so they must use their government-issued identification cards and, in the process, out themselves to poll workers, which could potentially lead to verbal harassment or even physical harm.
In May of this year the NAACP filed suit against Tim Moore, the Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives and Philip Berger, a North Carolina Republican State Senator for their implementation of a discriminatory constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 824. The actions taken and the resulting changes that were added to North Carolina voting policy made it so that any undocumented resident or any individual without an active license or state ID could not vote.
Several members of the public, as well as the state government, agreed the bill was discriminatory at its core and would only serve to further block access to voting for Black and brown people.
Data from the U.S. Elections Project has found that in North Carolina white voters had their mail-in ballots rejected at a rate of .5 percent, while black voters’ ballots were rejected at a rate of 1.8 percent and Native American voters’ ballots were rejected at a rate of four percent. These statistics illustrate the divide between Caucasian and voters of color.
Paul Brachman, the plaintiffs’ attorney, had this to say:
“Taken together, the facts are compelling evidence that [the bill] was intended to entrench the Republican majority by targeting reliably Democratic African-American voters.”
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