Voter Suppression in the 2020 Election

Cleo C., journalist

The 2020 election has been dubbed by some people as “one of the most important elections of a lifetime.” So why are we suppressing the vote? In an unprecedented decision, Michigan has just changed its strategy to outlaw counting ballots received after 8pm on election night. Previously to this Appeals court decision, there was a seven day grace period for ballots that were postmarked before election day. Two-hundred and thirty similar lawsuits have been filed across the country regarding similar voter suppression efforts that have been successful. 

The United States of America has prided itself on a fair democracy since the start. Granted, most of the time there was some marginalized group that was barred from voting. Jim Crow laws from the early 1880’s to 1965, Japanese internment in the 1940s, Chinese exclusion acts of the 1800s, and of course women until 1920, are just a small number of the tax paying citizens who have been barred from voting. Roughly 240 million people in the USA, out of the roughly 320 million residents are old enough to vote. Regularly, a small fraction of that electorate actually votes. 

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate running for reelection this year has hinted several times that he will “have to see” whether he will accept the results of the election. The constant spew of information that he continues to put into the world about “fraudulent mail in ballots” continues to make tensions rise unnecessarily. Absentee voting and mail in ballots have been the rule for military members, citizens living in other countries and even renters who have moved within a year for decades. Despite the smooth functioning of this system, the Republican Party has made it their business to make it seem potentially fraudulent. Mail-in ballots have been recommended by public health officials as a method to combat the potential spread of COVID-19 at the polls and reduce the need for poll workers who tend to be older and retired people. Minnesota and other states have recommended mail-in voting rather than inperson voting. However, most states also recommend that if a voter has not mailed in their ballot seven days in advance they should vote in person.

Most mail-in ballots are sent in by registered Democrats, which sets up several possible election night scenarios. In one scenario, Joe Biden, democratic nominee wins on election night, and Trump supporters are outraged and claim it was because of “mail-in ballot fraud.” In another scenario Trump wins on election night, but when counting the mail ballots in the week to come, there is a “blue switch” meaning Biden gets the mail-in votes he needs to win the election Trump supporters would then have clips to point to of their president stating that all mail-in ballots are fraudulent, giving Trump a platform to reject the vote. This would send it to the Supreme Court, which conveniently the President has packed in record time. Donald Trump has now elected three justices to sit lifelong terms on the Supreme Court. Ido Vock at the New Statesman argues that it is not just for the current president to have had so much control over the court because he did not win the popular vote due to decades long efforts by Republicans to gerrymander and suppress voters. It should also be noted that he was impeached earlier this year. There is now a 6-3 republican majority in the court meaning if Trump were to bring the election results in front of the court, he would most likely get a second term no matter how unjust it may seem. 

Voter suppression is at a peak right now but it has always been a part of Republican strategy to win, from the electoral college, to gerrymandering, to fewer voting polls in democratic areas and sometimes they just come out and say it. Republican strategist Paul Weyrich said in 1980 “I don’t want everybody to vote…our leverage in the election quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Trump seems to be following his example.

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