Op-ed: We need to pay attention to voter suppression laws ahead of the 2022 midterm elections

With+the+2022+midterm+elections+coming+up%2C+we+must+do+our+part+by+registering+to+vote+in+order+to+have+our+voices+heard.+

"Vote here, vote aqui" by whiteafrican is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

With the 2022 midterm elections coming up, we must do our part by registering to vote in order to have our voices heard.

Ashley Clark, contributor

Politicians are trying to stop you from voting. In the nine month period between January 2021 and September 2021, nineteen states enacted 33 laws that make it more difficult to cast a ballot. It is a direct response to claims from prominent Republicans, such as former President Donald Trump, that the 2020 presidential election was riddled with voter fraud. The 2022 midterms are just months away, and legislators are already trying to put the guardrails in to help limit the constitutional right to vote in this country in order to preserve their power. 

I was on the ground as a field organizer in Michigan during the 2020 general election and saw first-hand the disinformation regarding mail-in ballots that has carried over to the 2022 election in the form of stricter voting laws. Then, people were confused about registration and deadlines for ballots for their vote to be counted, and many feared votes would be denied because of ballots coming in past the deadline. According to some Republicans, vote by mail was a fraudulent method that cost them the 2020 election, which is absolutely not true. Conservatives lost the presidential election because people voted in historic numbers. Now, Republicans across the country are introducing bills to limit access to the ballot because of supposed wide-spread voter fraud in 2020 that, in reality, never happened. 

States like Florida and Texas have introduced some of the more restrictive voting laws that have come out of the past year. In Florida, a judge threw out parts of a law that were passed after the 2020 election, stating that voting rights were “under siege” in the state because of Senate Bill 90. The law required that ballot drop boxes close when early-voting polling locations close, a significant roadblock for people trying to return their ballot. This means that people who are unable to vote during the day when these locations are open cannot go earlier or later in the day to drop their ballot off. This restricts a vast amount of working-class individuals who are simply trying to have their vote count. The state’s election supervisors said that, in a battleground state where vote by mail has great support, the law makes it harder for requesting and returning ballots. In a state controlled by conservatives, such as Gov. Ron DeSantis, it is clear that while voters might be in favor of voting by mail, politicians will suppress their ability to vote to control who can and cannot cast a ballot this fall. 

Many of these laws introduced a requirement to present a form of identification to vote. While at surface level this may make sense, it is actually a harmful way that legislators are using in order to stop minorities from voting. Voter ID laws mainly affect minority voters who historically vote in favor of Democratic candidates. Conservatives are using this tool in their legislation because it comes at little risk to their voting population: predominantly white Americans. Instead, these policies are a great threat to Democrats who usually pull most of the minority vote. It all comes at a great harm to our democracy with those in power not only dictating who can vote but essentially trying to mold the outcome of elections. Stricter voter ID laws are a civil rights issue, and it is one that voters need to pay close attention to when casting their ballot because it is another roadblock in order to stop certain citizens from voting.

Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit law and public policy institute at NYU, said in an interview with NPR that he believes these voting laws are 21st century Jim Crow laws attacking minorities and their right to vote. Instead of literacy tests and poll taxes, lawmakers are using more subtle ways to suppress Black and Latinx voters from casting their ballot. The attack on minority voters is not a new concept in this country, and in the wake of an important election, lawmakers are using it to keep their power in Washington D.C. and within the states.

With the 2022 midterm elections in seven months, take back your voice by either registering to vote or checking your registration status in your state. For out-of-state students at Northeastern, these laws may directly affect the way that you vote. To ensure that your vote is cast, request your ballot as soon as possible and mail it back to your state immediately. 

The youth vote will make a difference in this election. It is time to oust the politicians pushing for racist voting laws and fight for our future. This is our world that we will inherit and it is time that we have our voices heard.

Ashley Clark is a second-year political science and international affairs major. She can be reached at [email protected]