Voting is an act of faith,” Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams wrote in June. Because of GOP efforts at voter suppression, it has recently become an act that many eligible voters are discouraged or prevented from making. And for too many of those who do manage to vote, it is less an act of faith than a leap of faith—a hope against hope that the electoral system will function as it should, allowing the majority to prevail. Abrams got a reminder of this as a candidate for governor of Georgia in 2018. Her Republican opponent, then Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, refused to cede legal oversight of the election even though he was running in it—an obvious conflict of interest. Then, as polling day approached, his office purged more than 85,000 names from the rolls, mostly people of color. NAACP president Derrick Johnson called it “a textbook case of voter suppression.”
Today, millions of American voters are at risk of being disenfranchised. This is largely due to the 2013 Supreme Court decision invalidating key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within twenty-four hours of that misguided ruling, Alabama Republicans rolled out voter-ID laws that previously would have required preclearance by the Justice Department. A host of other states quickly followed suit. What these laws have in common is that they’re crafted precisely to make voting more difficult. They impose confusing and seemingly arbitrary rules on accepted forms of ID, and throw up needless bureaucratic obstacles against everything from student ballots to registration forms. They disproportionately burden voters of color, the poor, people who live in urban areas, and people who tend to vote Democratic. A 2017 Journal of Politics study found that “strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities...and skew democracy toward those on the political right.” But there’s more than one way to suppress the vote. This year in Florida, Republicans effectively gutted a popular amendment to the state constitution that allows people with felony convictions to vote by appending onerous paperwork requirements. Numerous states are now eliminating polling locations and same-day registration, often in urban areas, measures that also disproportionately affect voters of color and the poor. The list goes on.