With early voting underway in 45 states and Washington D.C., voter suppression is already taking effect in the traditional ways as well as some new ones. The Republican Party has been working for decades to disenfranchise communities that traditionally vote for Democrats, especially Black and other minority communities. Closing polling stations in Black and Brown neighborhoods is ol' reliable for Republican-led states seeking to suppress minorities from holding them accountable at the ballot box. Long lines and waits of multiple hours are a hallmark of the electoral process, and it's not by accident.
One of Donald Trump's senior advisors, Justin Clark, was caught on a recording telling a group of Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is a deliberate strategy used by the GOP to compete in swing states.
“Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” Clark is heard saying. He continued, “that's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”
Of course, once his words were made public, he backed off and claimed he was taken out of context, but the evidence to support his claim is overwhelming. States like Georgia and Ohio, with Republican legislatures and governors, have seen wait times of up to 10 hours and lines a quarter mile long. In Ohio, this is a result of a 2006 state law limiting counties to just one early voting site per county. For Vinton County, with a population of about 13.5 thousand people, one polling station might be enough, but for Franklin County, which includes the capital of Columbus, nearly 1.3 million people are limited to one location.
With the coronavirus pandemic still wreaking havoc in the United States, interest in voting by mail has increased tremendously, and now the Republican Party has been forced to come up with new ways to suppress people wishing to vote by mail. Donald Trump has railed against mail-in voting, despite using it himself and having no evidence of widespread fraud with the historic method. A number of states have used the mythological threat of mail-in vote fraud to engage in voter suppression. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott attempted to implement a similar strategy to Ohio, limiting the number of ballot drop-off locations to one per county. To put that into perspective, Harris County, which includes Houston, has a population of over 4 million. Thankfully, a state judge has issued an injunction against the limitation, but there will likely be an appeal.
In California, the state's GOP has taken a different route. Instead of removing ballot boxes, they are putting out fake drop boxes, despite being warned by the California Secretary of State. Some of the fake drop boxes have been labeled as “official,” despite having no affiliation with the county registrars tasked with collecting ballots. The GOP are defending their actions by claiming that they are merely ballot harvesting, but the status of the boxes creates issues with the chain of custody requirements for third-party ballot submissions.
Directly interfering with people's ability to cast their vote is the most well-known method of voter suppression, but it is certainly not the only way. Another, more subtle way of suppressing participation is to try and convince people not to vote. Unlike the more traditional voter suppression practices, this one is not as limited to the right. Some on the fringes of the left have been trying to prevent people from voting in their best interests to serve their own purposes. Despite claiming to support things like expanding healthcare, protecting marginalized communities and increasing access to affordable housing, they will try and convince you not to vote for the only candidate that will address those issues, Joe Biden.
One prominent example is Ryan Knight, a faux journalist with a prominent following on Twitter. Since the conclusion of the Democratic primaries, Knight has spent his time trying to dissuade Americans from voting in their best interests to push forward his hope of accelerationism. He likely hopes that the re-election of Donald Trump will cause a massive revolution in favor of his beliefs, disregarding the damage a second Trump term will do. While he asks for your money to fund his podcast and likely the rest of his lifestyle, he has no cares about LGBTQ+ people who will be kicked onto the street as Donald Trump's Department of Housing and Urban Development actively allow shelters to remove transgender individuals. In fact, it might be in Knight's personal interests for Donald Trump to win re-election, as his podcast and relevance would probably grow amid the chaos.
In a display of absolute cowardice, he tries to avoid legitimate criticism by claiming that his vote or abstention will not have any effect as he lives in a safe Democratic state.
“According to neoliberals, in the primary @JoeBiden was the most 'electable' candidate,” he tweeted on September 9. “But in the general my one vote in the safest blue state in the country is going to make him lose.”
He disingenuously ignores the fact that he is trying to convince his over 366,000 Twitter followers to abstain or vote for someone other than Joe Biden. To put that into perspective, less than 80,000 votes swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump.
While there are many more examples of prominent social media and celebrity personalities actively trying to suppress the coalescence of voters around Joe Biden, almost all of them have an incentive in Donald Trump's re-election.
It is only right to clarify that people can have legitimate criticisms of Joe Biden and there is nothing wrong with trying to push him towards policies they support, but there is only one candidate that has shown a willingness to change and adapt. There is only one candidate who wants to help the poor, the working class, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. There is only one candidate intent on expanding healthcare and affordable housing.
These bad faith actors trying to dissuade you from voting are engaging in voter suppression. Like every other method, voter suppression should be called out and condemned. Voting in an election is a civic duty and a way to shape the future. Do not let them silence you. Make your voice heard. Vote.