A series of billboards placed in poor, minority neighborhoods in Cleveland telling people that voter fraud is a felony have reignited concerns over voter intimidation and suppression tactics in key battleground states. Efforts to restrict or suppress the voting rights of certain groups are not new. Since 2011, several state governments have proposed or passed legislation either requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote, or requiring photo identification in order to vote. Many voter rights groups view this as an intentional effort to disenfranchise minority voters. That’s because these acts tend to impact African Americans and Hispanics who live in low-income neighborhoods and are less likely to have government issued photo ID.
Some states have also changed early-voting legislation measures. Early voting is an important option to poor, minority communities who often can’t afford to take an entire day off from work or leave small children unattended on a given election day. “These early voting periods allow people with low-income jobs to prioritize their schedule around voting instead of making them choose whether to vote or stay home,” said Aurora Vasquez, senior manager of the Voting Rights Initiative for the NAACP. “These changes are for the improved integrity of our elections, but the [actual] result is a lack of integrity because the majority of the nation is saying, ‘Hey, how come we can’t be involved in the process?’ ”