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​SIEGEL: Restore the Voting Rights Act

Republicans’ efforts to suppress minority voters necessitates strengthening the 1965 law

The upcoming presidential election is remarkably different from past elections. Some of these differences are fairly obvious: the early, unexpected Republican challenger makes daily headlines with his rather unorthodox style, while the Democratic nominee is wildly unpopular. Anger and disenchantment have been the sad background of this campaign. As the election nears, the nation feels rather forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. We are so focused on this conundrum we have lost sight of a crisis that shrinks our essential right to meaningfully express our choice in the electoral system. The influx of restrictions on voting rights is not only a very real form of discrimination, but a change that suppresses our voice and turns a blind eye to the text of our fundamental laws.

When the Supreme Court decided to eliminate the very crux of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan and North Dakota took advantage of their freedom from the federal government by passing voting restrictions. These states, which are darkly stained with acts of voting discrimination, took it upon themselves to estrange minorities from their right to have a voice in this election. Earlier this year, Wisconsin issued a voter identification law that “lengthened the residency requirement for newly registered voters, banned distributing absentee ballots by fax or email and sharply restricted the locations and times at which municipal voters, many of them Milwaukee blacks, could cast absentee ballots in person,” according to the New York Times. Further, North Carolina also delivered restrictive voting laws that a federal appeals court decided targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision,” according to a federal appeals court. While the Federal District Court ruled these restrictions were unconstitutional and discriminatory, Congress needs to take the reins of this issue and completely restore what has been undone.

The GOP in these historically conservative states lacks the support of the African-American community as well as other minorities. Thus, it resorted to hardening the laws surrounding the right to vote, ultimately isolating a huge portion of the citizens that make up this country. The judge’s ruling in the case in North Carolina noted the bond between race and politics in this state and explained that “Republican leaders had drafted their restrictions on voting only after receiving data indicating that African-Americans would be the voters most significantly affected by them.” While it is not necessarily clear the restrictions on the voting rights mentioned above were propelled entirely by racial bias, “they were clearly devised to keep Democratic voters away from the polls.” This attack on our voting rights undermines our confidence in the electoral system as well as our trust of our nation’s parties.

Donald Trump’s views on voting fall in line with his worldview: he seeks to impose limits that close the door on a minority group, specifically the black community. Trump’s constant cry that the election will be rigged without the inclusion of voting restrictions is merely an attempt to “delegitimize our democratic process without proof,” as CNN’s Brian Stelter put it. It is absurd that a presidential candidate is behaving in this manner, especially as he attempts win over black voters. Congress must vote on the restoration of the Voting Rights Act so that we as a country of all citizens may renew our obligation to treat each and every citizen of this country equally and with the utmost respect.

I think it is fair to say this country is experiencing racial polarization when it comes to voting because of the cultural changes that have taken place recently. A study of the share of nonwhite Democratic and Republican voters over the past few decades found that “the racial divide between the Democratic and Republican electoral coalitions has widened dramatically.” The Republican party is overwhelmingly white. Without the Voting Rights Act’s restoration, the Republican party will continue to suppress outstanding votes and further foster intolerance. If a minority group is silenced, we are turning a blind eye to the Constitution as well as allowing the evil that is discrimination to persist and conquer. Every American becomes mute when one of its citizens loses his voice.

Lucy Siegel is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at l.siegel@cavalierdaily.com.

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