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Your Vote Might Not Matter

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Your Vote Might Not Matter

Conner Hua, Photography Editor

The results of the 2018 midterm elections appeared to be a delightful victory for Democrats as the House was taken back, an unprecedented number of women and people of color were elected, and the percentage of youth participation in the election was the highest recorded since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking it. Despite those steps toward the right direction, the path to Democratic victories was riddled with obstacles, namely, gross tactics of voter suppression employed by the GOP. Our right to vote as Americans was under siege in the 2018 midterms.

In the U.S., voter apathy is already high as it is. However, from birth, we’ve been told that our voices can and will be heard by our government, our rights as citizens of the U.S. entitle us to the power to directly influence politics, and that our vote matters. How can we tell the children of America that their voices, their ideologies, and their votes matter, when voter suppression is still a rampant problem in 2018?

The Midterm elections saw many things: campaigns run on love and diversity, campaigns run on equality and acceptance, but also a menacing, dark side of elections. There were many campaigns whose platforms centered around degrading and dehumanizing their opponents, and campaigns that employed whatever means necessary to ensure that they emerged victoriously. These campaigns threatened to tear apart our democracy as we know it and threatened to undermine all the rights that we as Americans hold true to our republic.

It’s no doubt that as the younger generations reached voting age in the 2018 midterms, a vast majority of the youth aligned with the left. Growing up in a different culture than previous generations, a majority of America’s youth have been taught since birth that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and intolerance in general, were bad. Besides a growing stronghold in the youth, the Democratic Party also saw a surge in registration and voter activism amongst other age brackets and socio-economic groups. Most likely shocked from the legislation and political moves the Trump administration were able to accomplish with Republican majorities in the Senate and House, the Democratic Party worked to mobilize the votes of minority groups in the U.S. As a result, states that were previously deep red (meaning people reliably vote Republican), began to see a shift from deep red to purple. States such as Texas—a traditional GOP stronghold—became a purple state in the 2018 elections, as almost half of the Texas electorate voted for Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat running for Texas senator.

It comes as no surprise to me that, as a result of rising Democratic populations in the U.S., the Republican Party employed disreputable tactics in a desperate attempt to retain their majorities in Congress. Most notably, in states such as Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, Republicans tried to restrict voting from minority groups (which tend to lean Democrat) in an attempt to maintain their power in state legislature and Congress.

The most grotesque example of voter suppression in the midterm elections can be found in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. In Georgia’s race for governor, Democrat Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader of Georgia’s House of Representative, ran against Brian Kemp, former Georgia Secretary of State. While running for Governor, Kemp refused to step down or recuse himself from his role as Georgia’s Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Kemp was Georgia’s chief election officer: overseeing all facets of the election, from voter registration laws to the actual execution of the election itself. The conflict of interest in Brian Kemp serving as Secretary of State and his bid for governor cannot be overstated. Just one of the few ways Kemp abused his power as Secretary of State to influence the elections was by implementing an “exact match” process that denies the votes of ballots whose registration information does not exactly match Social Security and driver license information. Over 53,000 voter registrations—70% of those being black applicants—were held by Kemp’s office for failing to clear this “exact match”. Data made available by CityLab’s Brentin Mock showed that a vast majority of blocked registrations came from urban areas with high black populations. In addition to Kemp’s highly controversial “exact match” process that suspiciously and disproportionately disadvantaged minority groups, Kemp’s office utilized a policy that allowed the discarding of absentee ballots that didn’t have “matching signatures”, a subjective decision that could tactfully suppress minority votes without any way to quantify and regulate which ballots had “mismatched” signatures. Besides these policies, there was also closing of polling places in majority-black counties, four-hour long lines that left voters with no choice but to return to work and not vote, and countless other small forms of voter suppression that disproportionately affected minority groups in Georgia.

Instances like this happened not only in Georgia but across the nation in “Republican strongholds” that were under threat from Democratic candidates. Many citizens are not aware of their rights as voters and can, therefore, fall victim to attempts at voter suppression. Republican voter suppression tactics in the era of the Trump administration threaten to dismantle our democracy as voters become increasingly wary of voting. One one hand, we—as American citizens—are told constantly that voting is a right that we should be grateful of. On the other hand, minority groups face obstacle after obstacle in trying to utilize the right provided to them by the Constitution, to elect their government officials. It’s time to end voter suppression as a whole. It’s 2018. American citizens shouldn’t be having to battle deceitful microaggressions in order to cast their vote. American citizens shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not government officials will cast their ballot the way it is supposed to be cast. American citizens shouldn’t have to pick between caring for their children, keeping their job, and voting. American citizens should be able to trust that the representatives being sent to Washington accurately reflect the U.S. electorate. Every American citizen’s vote should matter.

Photo courtesy of VOX.COM

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