New Voting Laws Disenfranchise Minority Voters
MAY. 25, 2021
Recently, states controlled primarily by Republicans, most prominently Georgia and Florida, have begun to pass new legislation restricting access to mail-in ballots and targeting minority voters.
Following the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 election, many false claims were made by Republicans regarding the validity of the election results, and blaming their loss on voter fraud and a rigged election system. One of the main controversies brought up by these individuals was the increase in mail-in voting that occured during this election due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. This method of voting was used overwhelmingly during this election cycle and was credited with helping voter turnout, particularly among racial minorities.
Recently, states controlled primarily by Republicans, most prominently Georgia and Florida, have begun to pass new legislation restricting access to mail-in ballots and targeting minority voters. So far, over 400 of these bills have been introduced, with nearly 90% of them being Republican-induced.
Back in March, Georgia, a state which recently elected two Democratic senators in a close runoff election, signed into law multiple bills intensifying identification requirements for mail-in voters, limiting ballot drop boxes, and giving the state permission to take over county election boards. In addition to this, outside groups have been prohibited from providing voters with food and water while they are waiting in line. Florida recently joined Georgia in implementing these laws, and other red states have followed in its footsteps. In Texas, legislation had previously been passed limiting early voting hours, outlawing drive-through voting, and allowing poll watchers to photograph voters and their ballots. Arizona recently outlawed donations to election offices and now requires that to continue receiving a mail-in ballot, you must have voted early in the previous two elections.
These laws have prompted outrage across the country, as many of them are perceived as targeting the voting rights of minority groups. In Georgia, dramatically increased voter turnout, particularly by communities of color, is credited with helping Democratic candidates win in the 2020 election. The state’s new laws, which have been called “Jim Crow 2.0” by its opponents, are being compared to the south’s Jim Crow laws during the 1950s and 60s, as the effects that they have on targeted racial groups are more subtle. For example, the stated reasoning for stricter voter identification laws is to prevent voter fraud, yet many Americans, particularly minorities, often fail to possess acceptable forms of identification. This can be compared to the Jim Crow era poll taxes and literacy tests, which largely disenfranchised African American voters.
Restrictions on vote-by-mail laws could decrease voter turnout drastically, as 46% of Americans who voted last November are said to have voted via absentee or mail-in ballot. This method of voting was particularly helpful during the pandemic, as worries of long lines and risks of infection prevented many from going to the polls on election day. Opposers of mail-in-voting, most of whom are Republicans, argue that this method increases chances of voter fraud, even though the rate of overall voter fraud in the United States is only around 0.0009%.
Just like the voting laws of the Jim Crow era, the recent voting laws put in place by these states disenfranchise minority voters, regardless of their stated reasoning. Voting is a constitutional right, and limiting access to it attacks this right, no matter the reason. The laws being implemented in places like Georgia and Florida are designed for political gain and do not reflect the values of the majority of Americans.