Written for The Argo by Sierra Snead
Here is a list of reasons that you, an American citizen, can be kept from voting:
- Lack of accessible polling locations.
- Overly complicated wording that can make choices confusing and overwhelming.
- Inability to be excused from work or school to vote because it is not a national holiday.
- If you are a current or former felon (depending on the state).
- Not having proper, government approved identification.
- People throwing out mail-in ballots.
The list goes on. There are numerous barriers to voting rights on both institutional and personal scales. Voting rights were designed for and written by Jim Crow-era lawmakers. Despite rights having been granted through the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, the ability to vote has been systemically stripped of nonwhite, lower-class Americans through discriminatory institutions. Whether it be the complicated wording, or the fact that a single mistake can invalidate your ballot, bias has kept many Americans from exercising their democratic rights.
Improper education has led to illiteracy being a huge voting obstacle. Trick phrasing, double negatives, and other literary pitfalls have resulted in hundreds of thousands of American votes being denied. With intricate instructions and layouts, even the most well-read can struggle with completing their ballot. The purposeful obstacles to polling in this country have historical roots in both race and class division. A simple missed mark on a ballot can render it entirely worthless.
If you misread or misspell, your vote can be cast away quicker than Tom Hanks; making those less formally read a huge target for voter suppression. Literacy obstructs thousands of American’s right to vote. With poorer funding for schools and the lack of educational support, the nonwhite American is often kept from voting due to these classist and racial educational hindrances. To be able to correctly cast a vote is one issue, but one of equal greatness is the fact that votes can be suppressed due to a lack of infrastructure and transportation.
In both urban and rural areas polling booths can be too far away for the average consumer. Without access to transportation, or mail-in ballots, some people are completely stripped of their democratic abilities. This helps contribute to the large portion of Americans that do not cast a vote at all. To further complicate this process, strict voter ID laws can stop one from voting due to the inability to provide proper identification. Even with proper ID, literacy, and the ability to meet all the requirements to place a valid vote, the popular vote can be rendered meaningless by the Electoral College.
There are a million different renditions that attempt to justify the use of the Electoral College. However, the truth lies in the fact that it was not intended to balance big and small states, but to protect slave states in democratic situations. Professor Akhil Reed Amar of Yale’s School of Law and Political Science weighed in on this reality in a Vox interview. He claims that “in a direct election system” that the South would lose voting based solely on population because a large portion of its population were slaves unable to vote. To contend with this, the Electoral College was established to give representative-based votes to “even” the playing field.
However, this backfired with the Three-Fifths Compromise where slaves, a significant portion of the population, were counted for three-fifths of a traditional white man’s vote. Despite amending the Electoral College to initially help these Southern states, it was never rectified once slave votes began counting. This led to Southern states conquering election after election. The lack of further rectification of this imbalance lies in inertia, Professor Amar claims. Representatives were also elected for the college because government leadership did not trust the judgment of uneducated, average-Joe voters; treating them like children with an “I know better than you” approach. This is an outdated system that was never perfectly designed in the first place. Now, in times of democratic crisis like today, it has become another tool of voter suppression that overrides what the country genuinely chooses for leadership.
The lack of evolution in such an outdated system has become an egregious flaw to American voting. These elected voting officials have clearly shown their contempt for actual American votes, as in the 2016 election where Hillary Clinton won by popular vote but was dominated by Trump’s Electoral College win. Quite literally the greater majority’s decision was thrown out because of the Electoral College. In no sane political spectrum does this make sense for a modern-day, democratic society.
The complexity of voting is inexcusable in today’s age of development and technology. The voice of the American people has long since been stifled, and for years Lady Liberty weeps in the shadows as such a corrupt system continues; leading to the various social and political inequities plaguing society today.
Categories: Your Voice