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Even in the U.S., black people are plagued by voter suppression ahead of midterm elections

October 23, 2018 at 06:00 am | News

Nduta Waweru

Nduta Waweru | Contributor

October 23, 2018 at 06:00 am | News

Photo: YouTube

After years of struggle by the Civil Rights activists, American Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to combat persistent racial discrimination.

One would think this would mean that African Americans would be able to vote without any form of discrimination. However, the recent ongoings ahead of the mid-term elections on November 6, proves that discrimination is still rampant.

The state of Georgia has been in the limelight over claims of voter suppression. The state has been accused of placing an ‘exact match’ policy, which requires voter details to match information on the state’s database. The consequence is the cancellation of a registration of voters, mostly Black or Hispanic.  It is reported that more than 53,000 voter applications are still on hold due to these discrepancies.

The state also has in place a policy that requires voters to provide a form of identification before casting their ballot- something that has been linked to voter suppression. It is further claimed that Republican candidate who is also the Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, is the one behind the voter suppression efforts.

He is up against Democratic candidate Stacy Abrams, who had called for his resignation over conflict of interest.


Georgia is not the only state to be accused of voter suppression. In North Dakota, a street address is required for from voters and since most native Americans use a P.O. box, they may become ineligible to vote.

Florida has been accused of limiting former felons from voting unless they have applied to have their civil rights restored.  The former governor Charles Crist instituted automatic restoration for non-violent offenders but the move has been rolled back by current governor and candidate Rick Scott, who also added a 5-7 year waiting term for felons to get back to voter rolls.

In Tennessee’s Shelby County, registrations were rejected if voters skipped checking their gender box.  Commercial appeal reports that the county’s Election Commission says this is because Tennessee requires voters to provide their gender.

“Forms without that filled in are considered incomplete and we contact the voter to cure the deficiency on the form,” said Linda Phillips, administrator of elections.

Other states like Ohio and Nevada have also instituted policies that removed voters from rolls if they haven’t voted in two consecutive elections. As a voter, you are required to send back a form when you receive a notice for missing two elections, failure to which you are purged off the roll. It has been reported that such moves affect poor African Americans and Hispanics who tend to move from one address to another.

A number of organisations and individuals have come out to condemn the attempts of blocking voters from exercising their rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  of Georgia has sued the Kemp and all county registrars on behalf of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project over these suppression efforts.

In Missouri, a judge stopped the advertisement by the Republican secretary of state that asked voters to carry photo IDs for them to be allowed to cast the ballot. Activists had gone to court to challenge a new law that requires voter IDs.

While there have been efforts to combat voter suppression, the impact of limiting voting rights will only be felt on Election Day.

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