There is no doubt that this election has been like no other in American history. However, we must make every effort to not be discouraged from voting by the divisiveness and chaotic party politics of this presidential race. It is up to us to make certain we, our families and our fellow union members show up at the polls because there has never been a time in recent history where voter access to the ballot box has been so limited.
Since 2010, new restrictive voting laws have been passed and upheld in 20 states. There are 14 states with laws that will be in effect for the first time in 2016 – Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. North Carolina and North Dakota once belonged to that list of states, but have since been removed when courts blocked the laws from coming into effect. Where the laws do still stand, most states now require an ID to cast a ballot.
UPDATE: WATCH THIS NEW PIECE FROM PBS NEWSHOUR ON HOW VOTER ID LAWS ARE AFFECTING VOTERS!
The bulk of these new laws was brought about by Republican controlled legislatures on the heels of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. Essentially, this case eliminated sections of the law that required states that have a history of discrimination to get approval by the Justice Department before changing their voting election laws.
Proponents of the restrictive voting laws maintain that they are simply trying to prevent voter fraud. However, a Loyola Law School investigation conducted by Professor Justin Levitt found that, since 2000, only 31 incidents of voter fraud occurred in more than 1 billion votes cast in that period.
The effects of these laws show the real motivation behind those who lobby for them. A University of California San Diego study released in early 2016 showed that voter ID laws reduced Democratic turnout by 8.8 percentage points, with only a decrease of 3.6 percentage points for Republicans. Yet, minorities, not political affiliation alone, seem to be the true target of these laws. The same study showed that minority participation in the general vote in those states fell by 4.7 percent, and 5.7 percent in primaries. Some maintain that this was a strategy put in place after President Obama won in 2008 and 2012 thanks to an increase in minority voters.
The bottom line – these laws were passed to suppress democratic and minority votes in those states. Look at the list above again and see how many battleground states are included (we’re looking at you Ohio).
Voter turnout matters now more than ever.
Think of the Down Ballot
We have all heard the term “Down Ballot” before, but what does it really mean? Ballots typically list the candidates from the highest level of office to the local level in descending order – or down the ballot.
These races can mean just as much to working families, if not more. Case in point, it was local legislatures that passed restrictive voter laws in the country. If we vote the candidates and leaders into office who stand for our interests, laws such as these won’t even be introduced in the future. We need to support pro-union candidates running for offices such as school board, mayor and city council. Often times, real change for the better is made by those in these offices, not the White House, and we have to support the candidates who will fight for our interests and way of life.
Voter turnout means everything in this election. Don’t believe that our candidate has already won the campaign. Vote. Take your family, your friends and fellow union members to the polls on November 8.