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Election Opinion: America prides itself as a beacon of democracy, but is it really?

Zach Yearwood, Managing Editor

As the country awaits the results of the 2020 Presidential Election with bated breath, there is one issue that hasn’t – and shouldn’t – go unnoticed.

The United States likes to market itself as one of the most democratic nations on Earth, promising free and fair elections for all its citizens. However, it fails to deliver on this promise with attempts to disenfranchise and suppress voters.

Examples of this can be seen throughout the country. 

In 2016, citizens of Florida voted on Amendment 4, restoring the ability to vote for former convicted felons who served their time. State legislators then acted swiftly to make it nearly impossible for them to vote unless they paid all their court fines (which they then made extremely difficult to quantify). This equates to a modern-day poll tax for 1.4 million Floridians.

Shortly before this year’s election, the governor of Texas implemented an order forcing only one mail-in drop box per county. After several challenges in courts, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the order. While this may not be an issue in counties like Loving County – Texas’ least populous with fewer than 200 people – it posed a serious problem in areas such as Harris County – Texas’ largest with a population over four million.

These are just two recent well-documented cases of attempted voter suppression throughout the country. However, simple examples of suppression exist in every state in various forms including:

  •     Long lines resulting in hours-long waits to vote
  •     Election Day not being a federal holiday
  •     Lack of universal voter registration
  •     Frequent purges of voter rolls
  •     Fewer polling locations in lower-class areas and largely minority communities
  •     Voter ID laws – obtaining an ID card can be costly for people in impoverished communities, which disproportionately includes minority communities

Even now, the president is attempting to stop ballots from being counted prematurely.

I am an immigrant. Until I became a citizen in 2016, I did not have the right to vote in this country. I have not missed an opportunity to vote and likely will not as long as I live. 

Not everyone is as intrigued in politics as I am, understandably. Many people, especially younger people, have been disillusioned from politics and avoid it all together. Not everyone will vote, but every citizen should have the option to.

So, my question is: Why do so many in positions of power try so hard to take the power away from the people?

This country has fought in wars overseas “in the name of democracy” to establish pseudo-imperialist, pro-American governments. How can it do this when it still, to this day, has not fully figured out democracy at home?

Allowing citizens to vote is not a red vs. blue issue. It should not be partisan. It is our voice. Civic involvement is a basic human right. Voting is a right that millions who came before us fought for, and we should continue this fight until every citizen is allowed to vote quickly, easily and at no cost. It is the way that we, the people, hold the people we elect accountable.  

We will never truly be the representative democracy we claim to be until every eligible citizen has equal access to civic participation.

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Election Opinion: America prides itself as a beacon of democracy, but is it really?