By Jenn Rosen, Solutions Specialist
Voter suppression includes both legal and illegal methods of preventing or discouraging voters from exercising their democratic right to vote. Overtly racist and violent voter suppression tactics, such as those used to keep African American voters from exercising their rights during the Jim Crow past, are not widespread today. However, there are new institutionalized barriers that can make voting more difficult for some communities.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since 2010, twenty-five states have passed laws that could make it more difficult to vote. Some of these laws include:
• Voter ID laws that require proof of address
• Laws that make it more difficult to register (and stay registered) to vote
• Laws limiting absentee voting
• Laws that make it hard for those with past criminal convictions to regain their voting rights
Research shows that these policies have a disproportionately negative effect on communities of color. Because of this, organizations and communities across the country are taking bold steps to overcome these barriers. As the United States approaches the 2020 national election, the articles in this collection provide important information on how organizers are engaging with communities of color in a way that respects and acknowledges a community’s culture and norms. Example initiatives covered in the collection include innovative and culturally specific ways to register people to vote, districts providing election day assistance to non-native English speaking populations, and the ways in which organizations are working to overcome voter ID laws that make it more difficult for residents of Native American nations to vote. Each of these examples of solutions journalism provide important insight into strategies that can be applied in other communities.
- What are some explanations for the low voter turnout rates in Texas Latinx communities?
- What steps are recommended by the National Vote at Home Institute to ease the transition to a mail-in election and increase voter participation?
- Voter participation campaigns are more successful when they are tailored to a specific cultural group rather than applied indiscriminately to the entire populace. Compare and contrast the different approaches illustrated by diverse cultural and ethnic communities within this collection.
- How do Voter ID laws prevent Native Americans from participating in elections?
- One of the Solutions Journalism Network Success Factors is "empowering people: building the confidence and problem-solving abilities of communities." Select one of the stories included in this collection and assess it based a Success Factor subcategory of your choosing: focusing on assets instead of need; local control/ownership; resilience; or raising expectations.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Because Latinx voters have consistently been disenfranchised, many feel that voting is a process designed for White, wealthy, educated populations, not all eligible citizens. Dislike of politicians also leads to a lack of engagement with the system rather than attempts to change it. A lack of information about candidates, registration processes, and polling procedures also contributes to low turnout.
- The National Vote at Home Institute makes three primary recommendations: mail every voter a ballot (as opposed to telling voters to request a ballot, which reduces overall turnout); keep a limited number of polling places open for voters who need them, including people with disabilities and without access to mail; and invest in equipment like high-speed vote counters to accommodate the ballots and ease the process.
- Some voters, like Hyunja Norman, must adapt to voting procedures that veer away from their own cultural norms; Norman explained that while she was growing up in South Korea, she was always taught to blend into the crowd and avoid drawing attention to herself. However, “[she] realized to live in America, we cannot live the way we lived in our old country... We have to make our voice heard. We need to make noise." Other communities find success by integrating civic participation into their cultural celebrations, such as Poder Quince in Texas. Girls who are hosting quinceañeras in Austin, Dallas and Houston can apply to receive a free photo booth for their party (as well as Snapchat filters), which helps draw attention to a voter registration table. During her thank-you speech, the birthday girl pledges to vote when she’s of age and calls on her guests to register to vote. The program draws in teenage Latinx voters while also reaching out to the aunts, uncles and grandparents who have typically shied away from politics.
- To get an ID, individuals typically need a permanent address that meets specific government regulations. Many Native voters, however, live in rural areas without specific street names, let alone full addresses. Without an address, it is significantly more difficult to get an ID; without the ID, they are disenfranchised.
- Answers will vary.