When voting becomes a privilege, not a right

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Democracy is the fundamental cornerstone of the United States. It is what this nation was built on: the notion that the general population has a say in the government.

Throughout history, amendments have been passed to ensure that everyone, no matter their sex or race, could vote.

But, according to The Washington Post, 43 percent of eligible voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. This caused the winner to be decided by a little more than half of eligible voters.

While it’s certain that some voters did not cast a ballot in the 2016 election because they weren’t satisfied with the candidates, there is another factor stopping people from voting: voter suppression.

Voter suppression is an attempt to influence an election by prohibiting certain groups of people from voting.
The Jim Crow literacy tests were a prime example of voter suppression, and while that might seem like a historical anecdote, voter suppression is alive and well today.

Voter suppression is turning the Georgian gubernatorial race into a national issue. The Republican candidate Brian Kemp is currently the Georgian Secretary of State and is running against Stacey Abrams, who hopes to be the first black female governor in the United States.

Recently the Associated Press released that Kemp’s office has placed 53,000 voter registrations on hold due to an inconsistency between the registration and the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. While there should be consistency, a missing hyphen could cause someone to be placed on hold. In information released by the Associated Press they found that 70 percent of the voters placed on hold are black, a number disproportionate to Georgia’s 32 percent black population, according to the current census.

Restrictions like these disproportionately affect people of color and are not democratic. Nor are they unique to Georgia.

In North Dakota, the Supreme Court recently upheld a voter identification law that requires voters to have a residential address. It’s making national headlines due to North Dakota’s Native American population, many of whom live on reservations and use a post office box as their address.

The voter identification law says post office boxes are not sufficient, thus hindering many Native Americans from voting.

While there are ways for Native Americans in North Dakota or Georgians with their registration placed on hold to vote, it requires them to go through a tedious and time consuming process that isn’t well publicized.
People of color should not have to go through extra loopholes to exercise their right to vote.

Proponents argue that a stricter voter registration process decreases voter fraud. Yet despite the President creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Voting is an integral part of the American identity and has been since our founding. Currently the system is not reflective of the ideals the country was founded on; silencing those with different viewpoints is not democracy.

It is time for an updated Voting Rights Act that ensures equal access to voting, for all citizens, regardless of race.