Voting is more than simply deciding which candidate to support; it is an experience. Depending on where you live, the laws of your state, your ease of access to transportation, and the ways your county administers elections, this experience—from registration to actually casting a ballot—differs greatly between counties and is largely dependent on the actions and laws passed by local officials. Unsurprisingly, those in power seek to maintain the status quo because that is what put them into power in the first place. Lawmakers can use their power to create laws crafted to their self-preserving advantage and make it harder for new populations—who are often viewed as threats to the status quo—to participate in the democratic process. Often termed “the tyranny of the majority,” our nation’s founders grappled with this problem of protecting the status quo, which could be used to limit the power that new demographic populations have to participate in our democracy. Our nation is currently experiencing a demographic sea change. Starting in 2012 through 2016, the number of Hispanic citizens eligible to vote is projected to rise nationwide by 17 percent—or by more than 4 million new voters. From 1996 to 2008, the number of Asian American citizens eligible to vote increased by 128 percent; Asian Americans were 3 percent of the electorate in 2012. While Asian Americans and Hispanics make up an increasingly larger proportion of the electorate, the proportion of eligible white voters has decreased. The increasingly diverse pool of eligible voters is overturning the status quo and traditional voting blocs in our nation.
In response to new voting populations, nervous leaders have enacted a slew of new procedural hurdles that make it more difficult to register to vote, harder to prove one’s residency, and significantly reduce voting opportunities. These actions are often taken under the guise of combatting voter fraud and ensuring election integrity. Unsurprisingly, as a Washington Post article recently pointed out, “the more that minorities and lower-income individuals in a state voted, the more likely” a state was to propose such restrictions.
Although the voter fraud that these leaders claim they are guarding against is virtually nonexistent, the effects of voting law restrictions dramatically impact the ability of citizens to participate in the democratic process. Again, unsurprisingly, these restrictive measures have been found to have a disproportionate effect on people of color, those for whom English is a second language, young people, the indigent, and the elderly.
Full Article: The Voting Rights Playbook | Center for American Progress.