After this year’s midterm election, there are definitely some mixed results. While the Democrats did take back the House, as was to be expected, it would be unfair to label this a blue wave since they also lost three senate seats. Democrats still feel confident that the results from 2018 signal a change of power come 2020, but a few races are pretty disconcerting to not just those who are looking for an upcoming progressive sweep, but to those who value equal representation in the electoral process.
It seems there were several accounts of voter suppression, throughout many different modes and forms, that occurred on Nov. 6. There were several precincts in Florida, where close races were being held for both governor and U.S. senator, that ran out of ballots and had people waiting in line for several hours, and most of this occurred in heavily African-American districts. In downtown Atlanta, only three voting machines were set up for 3,000 voters, creating incredibly long lines. Along with this, Georgia’s GOP candidate for governor had previously illegally purged 340,000 voters from registration, which may have hurt his opponent’s chances of beating him. Even a nearby area, Porter County, Ind., a district with a heavy labor union presence, didn’t have voting machines set up in time and were severely lacking in number of volunteers to run the polling places. It's likely that hundreds of thousands of votes all over the country won’t be counted or were thrown away before even being looked at.
Truly, these are terribly anti-democratic incidents that reflect poorly on several state governments and the people in charge of their electoral responsibilities. However, they weren’t done out of simple ill-will or hatred for any group of people, but because they know that such strategies work well to keep certain candidates out of office.
In Georgia, unless the counting of provisional ballots, a process that would be able to determine if a voter used to be registered but was for some reason unregistered, goes her way, it seems Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race to Brian Kemp. The same goes in Florida, where Republican Rick DeSantis squeaked out a win against Democrat Andrew Gillum for senate, and Republican Rick Scott won an even closer race against Bill Nelson for governor. Although there is now an automatic recount of the votes due to the nature of how close these races were, if voter suppression turns out to be as oppressive as it seems, the recounts won’t change a thing.
The biggest take away from this depressing possibility is that when people feel it's unlikely their vote will even be considered, they are unlikely to take part in the process the next time around. We speculate on why voter turnout is so low in this country, yet rarely consider the psychological and emotional feelings of unworthiness we put on potential voters.
So, what can be done to fix this? Turns out, quite a bit.
A big reason why people wait in hours for lines to vote is because of a lack of funding that many precincts have. Their voting machines are practically obsolete, constantly break and might only have two or three available at a time. This is especially a problem in poorer districts, as they can’t pay to get newer or extra machines. A part of why many votes won’t be counted is that so many voters choose to do a mail-in ballot due to busy schedules or working away from home, and these can take weeks to count in their entirety if there aren’t enough workers to do this task. Overall, the main issue is that state and federal agencies don’t want to put more money towards the voting process.
Creating amendments to the Voting Rights Act, the signature piece of legislation that made voting more accessible to people of color in 1965, could solve much of this. We are soon to have a new Congress, and in Illinois a new governor, so if constituents would call or write to their representatives, things could change. We could see equal funding put in to all precincts regardless of the wealth of the area, and maybe even see voting day become a national holiday if enough people speak up.
So, while there were some negative aspects to the midterm elections, voters should be even more inspired to make representation accessible to all. The best part is this isn’t even a partisan issue; the democratic process that we choose our leaders by is the most commendable aspect of American government, so expanding it should go without question.