A brief thought by student staff Shira Devorah
This coming Tuesday, I’m going vote in the Maryland Primaries!
I’m excited to participate in this election, but I am also really wary.
Voter suppression is a topic that’s pretty new to me. I’ve never voted before, let alone spent too much time looking into how it works. Most of my efforts have gone towards researching candidates, not worrying that I won’t even get a chance to speak. I knew a little bit about Photo ID laws (boo), but that was about it. I didn’t know about voter suppression before my more politically aware friend pointed it out to me. I like to think that I’m well informed, but clearly I haven’t been paying enough attention. And now that I’m about to vote for the first time, I’m worried that there are a ton of students just as unaware as I am.
Voter suppression includes a range of strategies aimed at discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote. It can be done legally, through unfair laws, or illegally, through underhanded tactics. Either way, it is a social justice and feminist issue. When politicians get in the way of equity for all, we must educate ourselves and take a stand against unjust practices.
I’m saddened, but not surprised, that America has legal (and illegal) things in place to stop eligible voters from casting their ballots. These unjust tactics are often employed to directly target and disenfranchise marginalized individuals, especially Black and Latinx people. People with prior felony convictions are just starting to get their right to vote back in some states, but overall do not get counted.
Students are also targeted through voter suppression. This recent piece by The Retriever Weekly gives a close-to-home example. This is a huge social justice issue that all students should be aware of when we attempt to head to the polls on Tuesday. Not only so that we UMBC students are conscious of our own votes, but also so that we are aware of the suppression tactics facing our fellow citizens.
Misinformation about voting procedures, like incorrect deadlines for absentee ballots, complicated instructions, and unfair waiting periods all add up to dissuading voters. There is a history of politicians and lobbyists spreading misinformation through shady robo-calls and flyers. On top of illegal practices, there are actual laws in place specifically created to suppress certain people’s votes. North Carolina’s Monster Voting law, which will have aspects present in this current voting period, would legally dissuade younger voters.
This was all disheartening for me to hear for the first time, but I was also inspired to learn that activist groups all over the country are fighting against voter suppression laws and dirty tricks.
North Carolina’s Vote Defender Project is a way that students are combating voter suppression. These activists are tasked with providing voters with accurate and easily understandable information about the upcoming election process. These vote defenders also look out for active voter suppression tactics and report instances of unjust practices, such as overly-long lines and inadequate equipment at polling stations.
campusvoteproject.org helps to empower and inform student voters, and you can look up information specific to your state and district through their website. The Fair Elections Legal Network is actively working to remove barriers to voting through corrective legislation.
People are speaking out and reaching students like me. Before a few days ago, I was completely clueless to this situation. I’m steadily learning, and I now feel like I have a better grasp on how important my vote will be. I now know that there are political groups that do not want me to have my say and having a vote that’s counted is not something to take for granted. We are all just single voices in this election, but if we can come together as more informed citizens, maybe we can fight against those who are trying to take our rights away. To my fellow students, I urge you to go out and make your voices heard. To dirty politicians who want me to stay home- I’ll see you at the polls.