OP-ED: The 2020 Election: Your Vote Matters!

OP-ED: The 2020 Election: Your Vote Matters!

Rachel Lief, Staff Reporter, Junior

With perhaps the most important election in a lifetime approaching, votes hold more power than ever before. Being at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens of the United States have several options for the utilization of their democratic power. Voters who prefer to take utmost safety precautions and limit their time outside their residences have the opportunity to request an absentee ballot which they can send in by mail or to a polling location. When mailing an absentee ballot, it is important to do so in advance, taking into account the warning issued by the United States Postal Service, which informs voters of the importance to ensure that it can be counted. Although taken lightly by many, the decision by United States citizens regarding whether or not to cast their ballot has a massive influence on the future of the country including the potential to cost people their lives.

Despite the fundamental democratic right being held under the Constitution, not all United States citizens are provided with the same opportunities to access their right to vote. Even after centuries of attempting to grant all citizens of the United States the right to vote, a significant proportion of them are being held back from utilizing it. With the greater amount of actions taken to ensure equal access to polling locations, measures to stop people from voting have become more covert to the general public. 

According to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, “Today, we see suppression efforts in the form of purging of the rolls, moving polling sites to hostile locations, shutting down polling sites, making it harder for people to register to vote by imposing new 11th-hour requirements. And often, these efforts tend to impact and burden certain people more than others – Black voters, Latino voters, Native Americans, students and others.”

The people who are affected the most by policies implemented by candidates are at the greatest risk of voter suppression, indicating its purpose to be a tactic to allow a particular candidate to gather votes, while the people who are likely to vote for the candidate from the other main party hardly have their voices heard.

Along with the greater awareness brought to the widespread issue of systemic racism, comes a greater amount of people who are yearning for change to stem from the executive branch. Subsequently, black people are at the center of voter suppression, which has proven to trail voters up to their polling locations on election day. The presence of the Fifteenth Amendment has little to no effect on the potential of individuals attempting to suppress the voting rights of black people, as shown in the long lines in predominantly black neighborhoods, voter-ID laws, and mail in ballot rejections. 

Voting while navigating through these challenges can often be difficult and costly for many. Obtaining a government-issued photo identification — which is necessary to vote in thirty six states — is unaffordable for a large proportion of people targeted by voter suppression. In an effort to hone in on the people that are targeted by voter suppression, voter-ID laws continue to get stricter, preventing many people from accessing polling locations. Additionally, many people are unjustly removed from voter rolls, leading to a revocation of their eligibility to vote. This leads to a smaller voter turnout and it has only gotten smaller over the past years. Collectively, the methods of voter suppression have had a significant impact on the amount of people who have voted over the course of the past several years.