In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many people were worried about going to crowded polling places on election day. In order to address this concern and improve voter turnout, there was a massive push towards expanding absentee voting, early voting, and official ballot drop boxes. This effort, however, did not go unopposed. The Republican Party has launched a massive campaign to undermine these efforts, alleging that absentee ballots increased voter fraud, a claim which is largely unsubstantiated. The California Republican Party admitted to placing close to 50 fake ballot drop boxes in order to create doubt in the security of the drop box system. In Texas, the Republican governor issued an order limiting counties to one drop box apiece, undermining the goal of making voting more accessible to a greater number of people. The Trump campaign has also filed a number of lawsuits attempting to limit the use of drop boxes, particularly in battleground states, but these have had little effectiveness. As tallying continues in several states, the President has called to “STOP THE COUNT” for any remaining votes, which caused even some staunch supporters to remark on the undemocratic nature of his proposal.
Voter suppression refers to any practice or policy which makes it more difficult for qualified voters to cast their votes, historically including practices such as literacy tests and poll taxes. Voter suppression still occurs today, taking the form of photo ID requirements, gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement, and other attempts to undermine a free and fair election.
The actions of the Republican Party are blatant examples of voter suppression. Blocking access to drop boxes is a deliberate decision designed to make it more difficult for voters to access the polls, unfairly influence the results of the upcoming election, and undermine confidence in the election results should the current President fail to be reelected. The outcry to stop tallying votes only once red states start to flip blue makes this abundantly clear. In the past, the court system has ruled that such obvious attempts to disenfranchise large quantities of voters are unconstitutional and therefore illegal. However, judicial intervention in matters of voter suppression has lessened in recent years, particularly since the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v Holder to dismantle parts of the Voting Rights Act. It is critical that voter suppression is not allowed to become a valid campaign strategy in our country, as it will only continue to erode the foundation of our democracy. Voting is one of the most important ways that citizens can exercise their voice in government, and public participation is the very basis which democracy is built on. When certain voters are deliberately excluded from the electoral process, our government is not representative of the population it is meant to serve. The citizens must not be robbed of their voice, especially at such a controversial time in American political history.