Change our voting laws

The midterm elections were fraught with division, rampant misinformation, and blatant lies. Perhaps even more troubling, the elections highlighted a more insidious problem – widespread voter suppression.

According to a Rolling Stone article, some 340,000 voter registrations were “incorrectly cancelled” by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp before the election on Nov. 6. Kemp’s office claimed the registrations belonged to people who “left the state of Georgia or moved to another country.”

That claim is false.

These voters lived within the state and were correctly registered, and yet their registrations were still purged from the system.

And this is just one case of voter suppression in one state – there are many more instances. So many, in fact, we do not have the space to address each of them, but must instead use a few of the most startling accounts.

The recounts in the Florida Senate race, for example, have provoked the unfounded ire of President Donald Trump. On Nov. 12, Trump tweeted the Florida election should be called in favor of Republican Rick Scott because “large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible – ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Trump has offered zero evidence for these claims.

Besides threatening the integrity of our democracy, demanding an end to the recounts would mean that ballots mailed in by U.S. military personnel stationed overseas would not be counted in the final tally.

By Florida law, there is a 10-day window following the election for ballots mailed from abroad to be counted, as long as the ballot is postmarked on the date of the election. As of Nov. 15, the Florida Division of Election’s website shows the ballots have yet to be counted.

So essentially, Trump’s call to go with the election night results – and the efforts to set unrealistic tallying deadlines for the recounts – will completely disregard the votes of people serving our country abroad.

And in other states, minority groups have been clearly and directly affected.

According to The New York Times, on Oct. 9, a Supreme Court ruling changed North Dakota voter registration laws to now mandate that all voters have a residential address. Many Native Americans living on reservations in the state use P.O. boxes as there are no official street addresses.

That means many registered Native Americans were suddenly unable to vote unless they could procure an address and a new ID featuring this address in time to re-register.

And all this is not to mention faulty voting machines in states such as Texas. Or the class-based obstacles inherent in voting, such as the need to take time off work on a weekday. This can be a barrier for hourly wage workers who, despite laws to the contrary, are unable to leave work or cannot afford to take an unpaid break.

These, among the other efforts to prevent citizens in our country from voting, are examples of blatant voter suppression.

The message is clear: the government isn’t concerned with the entire population voting and would rather typically disenfranchised groups remain unable to vote.

Our federal government, and our nation as a whole, needs to take claims of voter suppression more seriously.

We at The Gatepost wish to see our federal government enact widespread initiatives to provide equity and ethical oversight for our voting system – whether that be instating automatic registration, as Oregon has done, or allowing all ballots to be cast using a ranked-choice system, as the state of Maine has done.

The voice of the people is the backbone of democracy.

If our government is truly comprised of patriots, as our president often claims, then our nation should have laws that not only support but encourage involvement in the democratic process.

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