Voter Suppression

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

Voter suppression can take on many forms.

Last week in a story about Max Prestigiacomo running for Madison City Council, voter suppression came up because of Wisconsin voter ID laws, which make it difficult for students to cast votes. That is because many students retain the ID or driver’s license in their hometown when they go to school out of state, and Wisconsin requires that you have a Wisconsin ID.

The district Max is running in is mostly students at UW-Madison. This has contributed to lower student voter turnout in the past. And one of the things that he said he would like to see is voting rights for anyone in the City of Madison over 18.

Just days after I wrote the story about Max, a judge in Port Washington also did his best to suppress voting. The circuit court judge, Paul Malloy ordered that more than 230,000 voters be removed from the state’s registered voter list, according a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In October, those voters, who are believed to have moved, were sent a letter concerning their registration and removal from the registered voter rolls, and were told they would be removed by 2021. But in a twist, three voters sued the Wisconsin Election commission with the help of a conservative group called Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. The suit contended that once a letter questioning voter registration is sent, the voter has 30 days to respond. 

Now voters are expected to be removed from registration lists before the 2020 General Election. That means if you got a letter questioning whether you are still at your residence and did not respond, you will have to re-register to vote. If you have, in fact, moved, you may not know the letter was sent, which could lead to learning you cannot vote on the day of the election.

In my opinion, and the way in which other states I have lived have handle voters who have moved, is by presuming they are still at their residence until their address has been changed. So far as I am aware, none of those states had an influx of people trying to vote at the wrong location because of a move.

I am also inclined to believe that people who are registered will want to vote, therefore they will in fact change their address when they move. 

The story also stated that the majority of areas affected by the purge voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, at 55 percent. Hmm, let’s see a conservative organization backing a lawsuit that would potentially purge voters, mostly Democrats in a swing state before a presidential election. Seems totally legit to me. *sarcasm*

Purging registered voters for no apparent reason other than they “may have moved” is unconscionable. It is hard enough to get people to register and then make it out to the polls in the United States. 

Sadly, in spring of 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld a lesser court ruling that supported voter purging in Ohio. It allows states to purge “inactive” voters who have not made it to the polls for several elections. 

Maybe instead of trying to remove voters from the rolls, states should lend more support in helping voters register. 

In 2016, there was another voter suppression issue that came into play. Not enough polling places, polling machines or poll workers, leading to long lines and long wait times. Now on the surface this may not seem especially problematic. It takes 45 minutes instead of 15 to vote. But what about when it takes hours? 

Most people do not have hours to spend in line to vote. We have an expectation that in a well-established democracy,  it should only take minutes to vote. I mean, we should have this down, right? Yet in 2016 many people did spend hours in line just to cast a ballot.

There has been a false narrative perpetuated in our country that claims people commit a vast amount of voter fraud, therefore, we need voter ID laws and voter roll purging. The fact is, voter fraud is rarely committed in the US, particularly someone voting twice. In fact over a 12 year period examined by News21, there were 2,608 cases of someone voting twice and 491 of those were absentee ballots. Just 2,608 cases in contrast to tens of millions of voters that were cast during that time, well under one percent.

I urge you, one and all, to check your voter registration status before any upcoming elections. Also, allow yourself extra time if you can, and don’t forget your ID.

 

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