What to Do About Voter Suppression Right Now

The extremely high turnout for Tuesday’s midterms is a cause for celebration. Voters got angry, mobilized and hit the polls to be heard.

But along the way, some truly outrageous voter suppression tactics served as a stark reminder that the right to vote can be conditional depending on your race, socioeconomic status, precinct of residence and other factors.

As we explore the incidents that plagued the midterms, this is our chance to look forward to 2020. We need to take action now to make sure the polls are open for everyone in the next presidential election — and fortunately, there are some concrete things you can do to defend voter rights.

Start by knowing what voter suppression means. You may have heard this term thrown around but still be uncertain about what actually constitutes illegal activity. This concept covers a range of efforts designed to make it difficult or impossible for certain classes of people to vote. For example, many forms target communities of color — especially black communities.

Most voter suppression is a civil rights violation. Enforcement, however, requires filing suit and being treated favorably in court — or moving the Department of Justice to action, which can be challenging. Especially when it comes to striking down bad laws, justice can move very, very slowly.

Some examples, both de facto and de jure, include:

  • Voter identification laws, which disproportionately affect low-income people of color, elders and the disability community.
  • Moving polling places abruptly with no notice, or closing polling places.
  • Felon disenfranchisement: denying the vote to people with felony histories, either for life or for the duration of parole and probation.
  • Providing polling places with insufficient, damaged or otherwise unusable polling equipment or ballots; this can be as simple as failing to include power cords, as seen in Georgia.
  • Purging voter registration rolls.
  • Providing misinformation about elections and voting, including falsehoods about polling dates and hours.
  • Harassment by poll workers.
  • Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing distorted electoral districts in order to favor one party or another.

The broad scope of voter suppression may help you see that there are many different ways you can contribute to the fight for a fair vote. One of the most basic is with your wallet. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Election Protection and the Southern Poverty Law Center work on these issues and need your support.

Another is participating in the political process. If you voted during the midterms, that’s great! You raised your voice about ballot measures and candidates that will play a direct role in voting access in the next election. Keep it up. If you didn’t — and you could have — plan ahead for the next election so you’re able to participate.

Whether you can vote or not, you’re still represented by elected officials. In 2020, the census will trigger a round of redistricting, where state officials will redraw electoral boundaries to reflect population changes. Start following redistricting in your state so you can be prepared to participate with public comments — and consider joining forces with people across the state to keep tabs on local politics in areas you’re not familiar with.

If 2018 sounds too early for something happening in 2020, I have bad news for you: Your state’s officials are already discussing redistricting and developing the policies that will guide this process.

You can also pressure officials to make elections easier and more accessible. If your state doesn’t allow no-excuse absentee voting, in which anyone can request a mail ballot, ask for it. Push for early voting, too, so people aren’t limited to Election Day to vote in person. Demand that all polling places be accessible, and hold officials accountable for nonfunctioning equipment, poorly-designed ballots, outdated websites, insufficient poll worker training and other barriers to access.

Consider volunteering, starting with the polling place. Elections officials are always looking for poll workers, and you can help defend voting rights by being informed and helping voters at the polls. You may also want to consider volunteering with a local group or party committee that observes the polls. If you have legal expertise, your skills will be especially valuable for organizations defending voting rights.

Disseminate information. Many people aren’t familiar with their voting rights, including the basics of how to register and what they need to — and can — bring to the polls with them. Don’t just tell people to “vote.” Find out what’s preventing them and work with them on finding a resolution.

Empower potential voters with tools to research candidates and ballot measures, so they’re prepared when they go to the polls or fill out an absentee ballot. And do your own research to make sure your information is up to date!

Photo credit: Shealah Craighead/SarahPAC


Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley2 months ago

Thank you.

Chad A
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you.

Ron Loynes
Ron Loynes3 months ago

It would seem election officials should be independent and certified that way. Not like the man trying to be Governor of Ga. That is exactly like the wolf taking care of the chicken coop!

Tabot T
Tabot T3 months ago


danii p
danii p3 months ago

Thank you

danii p
danii p3 months ago

Thank you

Sue L
Sue L3 months ago

The League of Women voters is a great organization fighting to make sure voting is available to all. Their website VOTE411.org has great information. I cannot believe it wasn't even mentioned.

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 months ago

Susanne R.,
Of the 12 most gerrymandered districts, 6 are in red states, 5 are in blue states, and he remainder is in a purple state. Difficult to make the case that one party or the other has a monopoly on this practice. Indeed, this has been occurred for two centuries, favoring the incumbents,rather than a particular party.

Susanne R
Susanne R3 months ago

If you want to make elections fair, don't vote for Republicans. They think nothing of winning elections through voter suppression and gerrymandering. If you'd like to see what a "gerrymandered" map looks like, please access the link below. They actually dot the areas they need to win and connect the dotes to create a district. When these voting districts appear on a map, it looks like drawings of deformed animals created by toddlers. That shouldn't be happening in America.


Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago