The fight is on! Ever since the Presidential Election in 2016, there has been a sense of urgency to speak out. The importance of voting and having your voice heard has become apparent. Now that the midterm elections have begun, everyone who is able is trying to go out and represent themselves. The midterm elections will be held Tuesday, November 6th. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and the 35 remaining seats in the Senate will be challenged. There will also be other state and local elections.
Voter turnout has increased dramatically, such as in Houston’s Harris County, which had over three times as many votes than it did in 2014, causing its first Election Day to amount to 63,000 votes. However, with this increase in voting, there has also been an increase in the amount of tactics employed to stop people from voting. The pressing need to tackle voter suppression and election interference has become apparent. Concerns of domestic (allegedly from Republicans) and foreign (Russia and China) threats against the United States from the 2016 presidential election continue to rise. The political divide between the principle political parties continues to widen, and both parties are on edge about which will dominate this set of elections.
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Recognizing the power in numbers, the Republican Party is cheating their way through, using every possible tactic to stop minorities (which historically favor Democratic candidates) from voting. There are conflicts with voter identification across the country. The state of Indiana purged 460,000 voters from its voter roll in the name of “updates and maintenance.” Georgia is freezing 50,000 newly registered Black voters. North Dakota is blocking thousands of Native Americans’ registration with their requirement to have a physical home address in order to register, and Florida’s voter registration site went down two days before the deadline (and was never fixed). Republicans are cheating to win; using emotive language to scare people and making people choose sides to create voter bias.
The new policies continue to affect minorities, who are historically known for having their right to vote suppressed. Land-owning white men received the right to vote with the founding of our country in 1776. However, black men couldn’t vote until the 15th Amendment (ratified in 1870), and women until the 19th Amendment (1919). The Republican party is finding any possible loophole to delay left-leaning voters from casting their vote. Some are going as far as rejecting them from voting. Indiana removed 481,235 registered voters from the list of eligible voters for not previously voting (and being deemed “inactive”) and were rejected when showing up at polls. According to CNN, “More than 53,000 voter registrations have been put on hold” because they have failed to clear the state’s “exact match,” and nearly seven-in-ten of those voters are African Americans. There are, however, fights to repeal these actions.
In the case of the disenfranchisement of Native American in North Dakota, SCOTUS ruled that all registered voters must provide a street address. This created conflict for certain tribes who lived on reservations with PO box mailing addresses. Activists in North Dakota needed to raise $100,000 for potential voters to be able to reregister with new addresses. Fortunately, before the fundraiser had even reached the halfway mark, Grammy Award winner John Legend contributed the remaining balance, enabling registered Native Americans to vote.
In 2016, an estimated 15 million members of the population did not vote because of transportation issues, but this year Uber and Lyft are offering discounts on trips to polling stations. Practitioners who believe in equality and fairness are working exceptionally hard to make it easier for people to vote.
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Don’t let them steal your vote. Your vote is your voice and they cannot silence you! Read the ballot carefully, because there are important issues being discussed. Social Security, LGBTQ rights, healthcare, gun safety reforms, environmental issues and finance reform are just some. You can vote early in 37 states, so if you live in one of them, take advantage! It’s going to be a crazy election and with all the excitement and adrenaline of these upcoming midterms, I urge you to breathe and read through the ballots thoroughly before deciding. Every vote counts so go out and VOTE!
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Written by Tolu Sarah Martins