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Home / US / Is America a democracy? If so, why does millions deny the vote? | US News

Is America a democracy? If so, why does millions deny the vote? | US News

M Artin Luther King Jr. marched in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to prevent the attempt of white legislators in the South to elect African Americans. At that time, Selma had more blacks than whites but made up only 2% of the vote.

More than 50 years later, the then 92-year-old cousin of the king, Christine Jordan, turned up at her polling station in Selma, Atlanta, Georgia, to vote in the 201

8 mid-term elections, as in the last 50 years. However, she learned that there was no record of her voter registration.

"It's terrible, she held civil rights meetings in her house and she was not registered," said Jessica Lawrence, her granddaughter, at the time.

Jordan's problems were not unusual. Although America is proud to hold free and fair elections and the right to vote is rooted as a fundamental principle of its democracy, there is growing evidence of systematic attempts to prevent a growing number of Americans from exercising it.

Until recently, the 1965 Voting Rights Act ensured that the federal government monitored the changes in electoral systems in US states that had been discriminated against in the past. However, this changed six years ago by a Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the law. It meant that it was these states that no longer had to obtain from the federal government a "prior approval" for laws that affect elections and referendum processes. In other words, the states with the worst election discrimination in the past were free to return to similar behavior.

  Last-minute voters arrived to cast their votes during primary election in Missouri at Johnson-Wabash Elementary School on March 15. 2016 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Last-minute voters arrive to cast their votes during the Missouri referendum at Johnson Wabash Elementary School on March 15, 2016 in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo: Michael B Thomas / AFP about Getty Images

The Brennan Center at New York University – the main nonpartisan organization dealing with voting and electoral reform – reports that "states have put a stop to the ballot box over the last 20 years – and imposed stringent eligibility laws, Shortening of voting times, restriction of registration and clearing of voter lists. These efforts, fueled by the weakening of the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act in 2013, have kept a significant number of voters out of the polls and hit all Americans, but have particularly affected ethnic minorities, the poor, and young and old voters , "

The measures taken by these states, affecting millions of Americans, are aimed at suppressing voting, hence the term" voter suppression. "

Such measures not only jeopardize the achievements of the Civil Rights era initiated by the US Voting Rights Act, but they also threaten the notion that the United States is at the forefront of Western liberal democracies.

In an interview last year, Barack Obama said, "We are the only progressive democracy that deliberately discourages people from voting.

And Carol Anderson, author of One Person No Vote and advisor to the Guardian's New Election Series, wrote in an article entitled "Voting While Black": "The recent flood of whites is calling African Americans to barbecue while they do are black. "Waiting in Starbucks during black, sleeping in Yale during black and nausea has led to a much needed discussion about public space surveillance, but there is another important public space where blackness has been monitored, and we have not to mention: the polling booth.

"In 2016, black turnout dropped seven percentage points due to the suppression of voters in more than 30 states it was a deadly attack on democracy for America. "

For that reason, the Guardian launches today The Fight to Vote, a yearlong study of the American democratic process and its failures. It becomes compromised electoral systems take a close look at what was silenced in the elections voices provide a platform and show how electoral repression already influences the 2020 election. Fighting for Electoral Rights American civil rights activist Martin Luther King (1929-1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King led a black voting march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. "src =" https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ed245d1e5000d5824b3e90491fcb5105e4f4bbd4/0_5250_3619/master/5250.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=fcac48d2cfc1c02a1f7b2b22bfaf8e33 "/>

Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King led a black voting march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. Photo: William Lovelace / Getty Images

The fight for US electoral rights has always existed. In 1789, after ratification of the constitution, the right to vote was extended only to white men who owned property. After the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, the blacks were allowed to vote, but after a short period of black politicians winning the election, the white majority began imposing restrictions that motivated the king's march from Selma.

International comparisons show how much electoral restrictions affect US democracy. There is compulsory voting in Australia. In Sweden, all voters are automatically registered. Both nations rank high on an "Index of Electoral Integrity Index" prepared by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Sydney.

However, instead of being included in the ranking with other major Western democracies, the US is at the bottom of countries such as Kosovo and Romania.

Title of the international election spectrum
international spectrum
Guardian Graphic | Source: Expert Survey on the Integrity of Elections at Country Level (PEI 7.0)

Particularly worrying in the US, according to Sarah Repucci, Senior Director at Freedom House, a think tank in Washington, DC, "are the Republican-controlled state governments' techniques aimed at voters who are predominantly black minorities. Among the countries where minority voters were addressed are Cameroon and Kosovo – hardly regimes that Americans would consider our peers. "

It is not surprising that the US lags behind other democracies in turnout – in 2016, about 55% of Americans eligible to vote voted in elections, compared to around 87% in Belgium and 78% in South Korea.

Partisan Officials

At every stage of the voting process, the Americans face hurdles that depend on where they live. The electoral law is determined by the guerrilla state legislator and administered in most places by partisan secretaries of state.

In several republican-dominated states, the difficulties that voters face begin with the documents they need to show to be tidy and exercise their democratic rights. Legislators across the country have tightened the requirements for acceptable forms of identification – in a country where 7% of Americans have no photo ID and the number is higher among the black and Hispanic populations.

In 2016, Wisconsin reintroduced stringent electoral pass laws, allegedly to combat electoral fraud, which experts have repeatedly found to be nearly non-existent. [19659005] For this reason, a woman named Anita Johnson crossed three counties in the southeast of the state ahead of the presidential election. She was part of a whole industry of activists trying to get people to vote.

When Johnson, a lawyer working with the nonprofit VoteRiders, made his way through the majority of black communities in cities such as Racine and Kenosha, fought rumors and ambiguity over what types of identification papers needed to be chosen. She accompanied them to various government offices to obtain a driver's license or helped them find the old address documents they needed to register. She realized that Wisconsin's policies discouraged potential voters.

  Anita Johnson, an activist working for VoteRider, poses for a portrait at her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. November 4, 2019.

Anita Johnson, at her home in Milwaukee. Photo: Lauren Justice / The Guardian

"I've done that since the elections in 2018 all year round, it's about not stopping," she said. "There will be a lot of confusion in the 2020 election because not everyone like me respects democracy."

And not everyone in the state had an activist like Johnson to help them. When Donald Trump finally won Wisconsin by 22,000 votes, political analysts noted that there was a 3% reduction in turnouts in the city of Milwaukee alone, or 41,000 fewer votes than four years ago.

"The most severe constraint The influence on electoral rights and turnout in Wisconsin is due to the extreme and restrictive law of identifying photo-voters," said Jay Heck, director of Common Cause, a nonpartisan state accountability group.

In the same year, 600,000 people lived in Wisconsin It was estimated that in Texas the badges required for voting under the strict guidelines of the state are missing. Virginia has imposed new restrictions on organizations and nonprofit organizations that have people enrolled through campaigns and voting campaigns. This year, Tennessee tried to prosecute such groups if they make mistakes.

"False Pretexts"

For many Americans, finding a voting booth is a daunting task. A report released a few months ago by the Education Fund of the Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization, found that since 2012, 1,688 polling stations have been closed. These closures have taken place in countries that have historically experienced racial discrimination in elections, including 214 electoral closures in Georgia.

Sean Young, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Our election officials should defend and protect our democracy. Instead, many have used false pretexts to force the closure of polling stations in color communities.

Ten percent of the counties in Georgia had a single electoral district for all voters, and some had to travel miles to vote. Georgia, Texas, had 760 election closures and Arizona 320.

These election closures are a direct result of the amendments to the Voting Rights Act in 2013 – previously Georgia was one of nine states that had to obtain a pre-election closed polls or amendments to the Electoral Code performed. That is no longer the case.

Voter cleanup

And if stricter voter identification and electoral polling laws are not enough, there are other ways to discourage and suppress voting. Another method is called "voter cleansing" – and that's exactly what happened to Christine Jordan, King's cousin.

  Christine Jordan

Christine Jordan, the cousin of Martin Luther King. Photo: Greg Palace

Jordan thought she was registered to vote when she went to the polls. She had not changed her place of residence or her name. Yet, like 17 million other people in the US between 2016 and 2018, according to the Brennan Center, it was wiped out by voters.

"Rinse the voters" is when officials scrub the names of the voters to supposedly ensure that people do nothing Do not vote twice and people who have died or moved are removed from the rolls. These are legitimate justifications.

Nevertheless, according to the Brennan Center, it is more common to make changes in areas and states previously prohibited by the Voting Rights Act. Places with a history of election discrimination.

And as the Brennan Center reports: "Problems arise when states remove voters who are still eligible to vote. States rely on erroneous data to prove that a voter has moved to another state.

"Often these data confuse people. In large states such as California and Texas, multiple people may have the same name and date of birth, making it difficult to ensure that the right voter is deleted if perfect data is not available. "Src =" https://i.guim.co .uk / img / media / 08e08d2cc25eb1388171b6aeceab3ad5f9963a7b / 0_0_4000_2667 / master / 4000.jpg? width = 300 & quality = 85 & car = format & fit max = & s = f19cc2c90045e2798437930b4c8cd803 "/>

Boxes of ballot papers are waiting to be sorted at the polling station of the San Francisco City Hall in San Francisco, California, USA. They are waiting to be polled in the City Hall of San Francisco Polling Station in San Francisco, California, USA, on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Photo: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg on Getty Images

An infamous system, the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck System, has been used by dozens of states to search for individuals who have registered in more than one jurisdiction since its inception in 2005. A 2017 study found that Crosscheck is 99% more likely to cleanse legitimate than ineligible voters.

The authors of the study stated " One of the cleaning strategies proposed by Crosscheck would eliminate about 300 registrations There used to be a seemingly legitimate vote for each registration used to make a double vote.

Discrimination against criminals

Weighing the combined effects of strict ID laws, closing polls and purges of voters, and you are still far from making estimates on the number of people who are actively prevented from voting in the US , Another 4.7 million Americans can not vote at all. This is the number of convicted offenders who have no voting rights, including those who are imprisoned for serious crimes such as murder and rape, but who are also charged with burglary and repeated driving under the influence of offenders.

Forty-eight states have some form of criminal deprivation, but three states – Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia – deprived people of their lives. The impact is disproportionate: one in 13 African Americans has lost his or her voting right as compared to one in 56 non-black voters, according to the Sentencing Project.

Jevon Gerrard Stevens, a 42-year-old Aquarius The operator of a wastewater treatment plant for the Miami Dade County Water and Sewer Department in Florida was convicted of car-theft third degree in 1998, resulting in a three-month prison sentence. He could not vote for 21 years.


"It's a way for those in power to control the less fortunate, and once you become a convicted criminal, you fall directly into that category," he said.

However, there are signs of a nationwide shift in sentiment. Until recently, Florida had one of the strictest rules for the elimination of criminals in the country. By the end of 2018, a majority of Floridians voted to return the right to vote to the felons after leaving prison – to the delight of Stevens.

The Republican-contested move could reduce the vote to 1.4 million people in the state, a not insignificant figure, considering that the gap between Trump and Hillary Clinton in the recent Florida presidential election was just 1.2 points amounted to.


There are many other ways in which politicians and activists have worked to dilute the power of the Americans.

Many states allow gerrymandering or electoral district boundaries to favor one party by packing voters of another party into as few counties as possible, so that they have fewer seats after election day. In a remarkable move in July, the Supreme Court ruled that a decision by a majority of 5 to 4 would not lead to a decision on partisan change. In fact, it was not to declare partisans unconstitutional.

Elena Kagan and the court's liberal judges accused the majority of the court of evading his duty.

"The partisans in these cases deprived citizens of the most basic of their constitutional rights: the right to participate equally in the political process, to join forces with others to advance political convictions and to elect their political representatives. "

  The early morning sun casts a voter's shadow against a wall when he arrives at a polling station in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, USA.

The early morning sun throws the shadow of a voter on a wall when he arrives at a polling station in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Photo: Pete Marovich / Bloomberg on Getty Images

For all of the topics mentioned here, the Guardian has pledged to put the issue of voting at the heart of our reporting for 2020. And we are not alone. There is a growing, if small movement of people and organizations similarly motivated to give back the voices to as many Americans as possible.

Both Stacey Abrams, the governor candidate of Georgia for 2018, and Eric Holder, Barack Obama's former Attorney General, have dedicated themselves to this issue, while groups such as Black Voter's Matter and Voto Latino are pursuing national strategies to persuade people to poll.

And some states opt for automatic voter registration or same-day registration. "After a decade of adoption of restrictive electoral laws, such as the electoral pass, the momentum is shifting toward the adoption of small catch-up laws to further modernize the state electoral system," said Chapman Rackaway, a professor of political science at the University of West Georgia.

"It is the pendulum that swings in the other direction." [194559005] Greg Palace contributed to the coverage of this story

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