How to Combat Voter Suppression

Let’s start off with a loaded question: Is voter suppression a real thing, or is it an example of Democratic party propaganda? Choose one of the following:

A) The Democrats are crying in their milk about voter suppression to alibi themselves for the low voter turnout they are going to achieve on November 6 and to generate negative press for Republican candidates.

B) The Republicans are suppressing minority voters by Gerrymandering districts, throwing minority voters off voter rolls, turning them away at the polls, reducing the number of polling places in minority neighborhoods, shortening hours that polling places are open so that working people cannot get to the polls before they close, and refusing to restore the constitutional rights to ex-convicts after they have paid their debts to society.

C) Republicans are doing all these things, but Democrats are doing them too.

D) None of the above.

E) All of the above.

Without pretending that there’s a false equivalency between what Democrats are doing in the NINE states they control and what the Republicans are doing in the 27 states they control, there is ample evidence of widespread voter suppression in Republican states. The Republicans simply have more opportunities to do it than the Democrats do.

What Democrats Are Doing About Voter Suppression

Democrats are following several different strategies to level the playing field.

Going to Court:

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, There are Democratic lawsuits pending in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisana, and Connecticut. Most of these cases are pressing claims that previous redistricting plans have discriminated against minority voters. Minority voters are generally associated with the Democratic party. There is also one case in which Republicans are challenging a Maryland redistricting plan that favors Democrats.

The first problem with challenging redistricting plans is that, whenever a state is redistricted, the redistricting almost always creates safe districts for each major party. It’s the number of districts each party gets that generates lawsuits.

The second and more important problem is that challenges to redistricting plans take years to wind their ways through the courts and, with a solid Republican majority now in charge of the Supreme Court, most of those Democratic challenges are going to fail. Simple fact of life.

Increased Voter Registration Efforts

The Democratic party has put a lot of its marbles into voter registration drives, and there’s nothing wrong with that, except that voter registration drives don’t always produce votes for the party that promotes the voter registration. Campaigns designed to turn out the “youth” could also backfire. The Pew Foundation reports that Trump’s job approval rating is around 36% among Gen X voters, and just 27% among Millennials.

The good news for Democrats is that CNBC is reporting that almost half of the younger voters surveyed are planning to vote. The bad news is that we don’t know who they are going to vote for. There is a widespread belief that a large turnout from Generations X, Y, and Z (et cetera) would favor the Democrats, but there is a shortage of solid evidence to support that belief.

Yes, there really is a Gen Z, defined as people between 15 and 24 years of age, of whom only those over 18 are actually eligible to vote. In this cohort, according to The Washington Post, only 28% like Donald Trump. Among young black people, that number, unsurprisingly, is down to just eight percent of the 2,000 person sample.

So, while there are reasons for Democrats to think that younger voters will favor Democratic candidates, the only poll that really counts is the one on election day.

Getting Out to Vote

Getting out the vote — the time honored tradition of shuttling voters to the polls on election day — is as basic to the political process as the voting itself. However, as in several of the more recent election, the Democratic party has focused on turning out the Democratic faithful rather than attempting to make inroads among the non-aligned voters.

Courting non-aligned voters is both more difficult and more dangerous, because you can never tell whether you are activating a friends or trigger an enemy when you turn a non-voter into a voter.

The Simple Solution to Voter Suppression

The hands-down best solution to the problem of voter suppression is to vote by mail.

When you request a mail-in ballot, you will find out right away…and well before election day…whether you have been removed from the voter rolls. If you don’t get your absentee ballot, you know that you have a problem. This gives you the opportunity to address that problem and solve it before the big day at which point it becomes very difficult to solve your registration issues.

Absentee ballots are available in 47 states. No reason is required in 27 states. In 20 states, you must state a reason. “I will be out of town on election day” is enough of an excuse to get you an absentee ballot, and you can make the lie into a fact simply by driving over the city line on election day.

Because absentee ballots are paper ballots, they circumvent the problem of election fraud perpetrated by gimmicked voting machines. The paper trail makes cheating very difficult.

Unlike other answers to the problem of voter suppression, requesting and using an absentee ballot costs nothing. (The U.S. Postal Service will deliver ballots that do not have any postage. They charge the jurisdiction for those fees.) Unfortunately, there are some people in both major parties who are still wedded to the drama of election day, and believe that the process of getting out the vote has a significant impact on the final counts.

This is 19th century thinking in a 21st century world. The days when you could turn out the vote (remember: “Vote Early and Often for James Michael Curley?) and perhaps stuff a few ballot boxes along the way are quickly disappearing.

Unfortunately, the Democratic party has failed — once again — to promote absentee voting to the extent where it would make any difference. Maybe they will learn their lesson this year and start a full-bore promotion for absentee voting for 2020.

This is one way that the ordinary, everyday citizen can actually strike a blow for the democratic process. It may in fact be the only way left to make use that your vote is going to count but, of course, it is now too late to request an early ballot.

Alan is a poet, journalist, short story writer, editor, website developer, and political activist. He is the executive editor of

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