What is Voter Suppression? | National Democratic Training Committee

Since March 2020, there have been a lot of adjustments made to what a “normal life” looks like. This means people, especially in the political world, have had to get creative.

Fundraising event dinners transform into virtual fundraising happy hours.

Door knocking shifts into texting.

And the need for phone banking increased tremendously.

As the 2020 presidential election approaches and some states still waiting for their respective primaries, voting has also begun to look different from state to state.

Unfortunately, there is one thing that has yet to change, and that is voter suppression.

What is Voter Suppression?

Where did it start and what does it look like during a pandemic?

This blog post is part one of a two-part series to look into voter suppression:

  • Its history
  • What it looks like today
  • What can you do to be a part of the change

Voter Suppression: A Definition

Voter suppression, by definition, is the use of specific tactics with the intent to manipulate the results of an election.

These tactics include, but are not limited to:

  • Voter ID laws
  • Cuts to early voting
  • Systematic disenfranchisement
  • Purges of voter rolls

These tactics are to intentionally deter eligible voters across the United States from practicing their constitutional right to vote.

Voter suppression largely targets minorities: Black/African American people, elderly, students, and people with disabilities.

The History of Voter Suppression

The history of voter suppression directly correlates to the history of voting in the United States. After the Civil War, the 15th amendment ratified in 1870 extended the right to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

But in 1877, a series of laws were imposed in order to suppress the Black vote. We all know them as the Jim Crow voting laws that included the following requirements:

  • Literacy tests
  • Poll taxes
  • Grandfather law

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a huge part of the reason the Jim Crow voting laws ended, but voter suppression did not end there.

Voter Suppression Today

We are way past the Jim Crow law times, but voter suppression is still prevalent today and even more amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polling places are less accessible to people and the restrictive voter ID requirements have affected vulnerable communities. A study published by researchers from the University of California San Diego found that the impact of voter ID laws has differentially affected the voter turnout for Hispanics, Black and mixed-race Americans in both the primary and general election.

A recent example comes from Kentucky’s 2020 primary elections. Kentucky’s primaries were already delayed from the original date in May due to COVID-19. The state then cut down the number of polling locations by more than half.

Kentucky annually has around 3,700 polling locations in the whole state; in 2020 it went down to less than 200. Jefferson County was directly impacted by the decrease in number; this county holds the state’s largest black population and had only one polling station open.

Take a Deep Breath

This is a lot to take in and you could be feeling a little hopeless. Fortunately, there are steps you can take today to fight voter suppression or even join active groups that are currently fighting it.

Part two, “Vote By Mail: Fighting Voter Suppression” available next week, goes in-depth to provide resources you can use to be a part of the change today. It’s never too late to start!

In The Meantime

NDTC has upcoming Virtual Live Trainings on “How to Run Your Vote By Mail Program.” Attend August 24 training to learn the phases of a vote-by-mail program, how data and conversations lead to voter turnout, and how to have both application and ballot chase conversations with voters. Once you create an NDTC account you have access to recordings of previous Virtual Live Trainings.

All NDTC Virtual Live Trainings are free to attend.

Next Live Training

NDTC Virtual Live Training

December 1, 2020

1:00pm - 2:00pm (ET)

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