13 Ways the Vote Is Being Suppressed Ahead of the Election

Half of American voters expect to have difficulty casting a ballot this November.

Janea Wilson

Members of the activist group Rise and Resist gathered outside the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan October 15 to encourage people to make a voting plan, stating that the current administration is hard at work suppressing the vote and attacking the validity of mail-in votes. Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

As the coro­n­avirus con­tin­ues to rav­age the Unit­ed States, many Amer­i­cans are plan­ning out how to vote safe­ly in one of the most con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in recent years Many states have sur­passed their 2016 requests for absen­tee bal­lots, and 29 states and Wash­ing­ton D.C. have allowed vot­ers to request an absen­tee bal­lot with­out an excuse. More than 80 mil­lion peo­ple have request­ed or been sent a bal­lot by mail, near­ly 25 mil­lion more than in past elec­tions. Even as vot­ing by mail offers more acces­si­bil­i­ty, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans still have dif­fi­cul­ty cast­ing their votes. 

Pres­i­dent Trump has been quite vocal about his oppo­si­tion to mail-in vot­ing, stat­ing that bal­lots will be manip­u­lat­ed to not reach Repub­li­can vot­ers, despite repeat­ed research show­ing that such fraud is nonex­is­tent. His cam­paign has tried to stop mail-in vot­ing efforts, includ­ing fil­ing a law­suit against Neva­da, a state that is plan­ning to send mail-in bal­lots to all reg­is­tered vot­ers. In ear­ly Octo­ber, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice also weak­ened its reg­u­la­tions on inves­ti­ga­tions into elec­tion secu­ri­ty, allow­ing fed­er­al elec­tion inspec­tors to start an inves­ti­ga­tion on sus­pect­ed elec­tion-relat­ed crimes even before polls close, which can sway pub­lic opin­ion of the valid­i­ty of the elec­tion and sway results. 

A Pew Research Cen­ter study shows that vot­ers of mar­gin­al­ized groups who have not always had the right to vote, will make up more of the elec­torate than ever before. The Native Amer­i­can vote has the pow­er to flip Ari­zona, but many will strug­gle to cast a vote since they do not receive mail at their home and have dif­fi­cul­ty access­ing polling places. Black vot­ers in North Car­oli­na could also turn their state blue, but as of Sep­tem­ber 17 FiveThir­tyEight found that they have had their mail-in bal­lots reject­ed for tech­ni­cal rea­sons at a high­er rate than white voters. 

The num­bers below cap­ture some of the ways vot­ers have been dis­en­fran­chised in the past — and will con­tin­ue to be dis­en­fran­chised — dur­ing this election. 

49% of vot­ers expect to have dif­fi­cul­ty cast­ing their bal­lots in Novem­ber, com­pared with 15% dur­ing the 2018 midterms.

39% of vot­ers would pre­fer to vote by mail.

87% of Swedish vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ed in their most recent gen­er­al elec­tion, com­pared with 60% of Amer­i­cans in 2016.

92,000,000 eli­gi­ble Amer­i­cans did not vote in 2016.

25 of the devel­oped OECD coun­tries have high­er vot­er turnout in nation­al elec­tions than the Unit­ed States, includ­ing Esto­nia and Slovakia.

17,000,000 peo­ple nation­wide were kicked off vot­er reg­is­tra­tion lists between 2016 and 2018, osten­si­bly to ensure accu­ra­cy but dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ing peo­ple of color.

11% of U.S. adults lack prop­er vot­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (as required in 36 states), a com­mon bar­ri­er for vot­ers in non-white com­mu­ni­ties and poor voters.

15% of Black vot­ers report­ed trou­ble find­ing a polling sta­tion in 2016, com­pared with 5% of white voters.

29% longer wait times to vote were expe­ri­enced in Black com­mu­ni­ties than white com­mu­ni­ties in 2016.

668,000 few­er vol­un­teers are being recruit­ed as poll work­ers for 2020, com­pared with 2016.

2,700,000 mil­lion Amer­i­cans cit­ed busy sched­ules” as the main rea­son they didn’t vote in 2016.

Only 2 states have no restric­tions on how felons can vote. 

43% of peo­ple con­vict­ed of felonies who have already com­plet­ed their sen­tences and parole time still can­not vote.

Janea Wil­son is an Edi­to­r­i­al Intern for In These Times, and a stu­dent at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty study­ing jour­nal­ism and anthro­pol­o­gy. She has pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten for The Dai­ly North­west­ern, The Detroit Free Press and The Trace mag­a­zine. You can reach her on Twit­ter at @janeaAwilson

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