Stop Blaming Non-voters
In yesterday’s midterm elections, Democrats seized the House and Republicans retained control of the Senate. This is despite the fact that voter turnout this year broke records, with 36 million people reported to have voted early by Tuesday morning.
Yet liberals continue to insist on blaming non-voters for the current hellish political climate with poisonous, manipulative rhetoric rather than placing the blame on the actual, structural roots of the problem, which are inextricably entwined with our government and always have been.
Also, in yesterday’s midterms, Florida passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to more than one million former felons. This also means 40 percent of all black men in Florida have just now gained the right to vote in 2018.
It’s been widely reported that voters in Georgia have faced a variety of obstacles, with almost 90,000 voters purged from the rolls and 53,000 voter registration statuses changed to pending this year alone. It’s no coincidence that these measures largely affect people of color, specifically black people.
Several anecdotes on Twitter have told horror stories of unlawful demands for photo IDs or waiting in line for hours on end because of faulty voting machines or polling sites opening late in states all across the nation.
AP reported that nearly 319,000 absentee ballots were rejected in the last presidential election. Given this precedent and the general trend of increased voter suppression, it’s not unrealistic to expect that a similar number of absentee ballots could have been rejected in these elections.
Yes, all of the above are examples of voter suppression, and specifically voter suppression that largely affects marginalized communities. And yes, voter suppression is a growing and incredibly worrying trend. If President Trump’s insistence that widespread “voter fraud” wasn’t sufficient enough evidence of that, take it from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which reported a record 24,000 received phone calls as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, compared to 14,000 during the 2014 midterms.
In a nation that prides itself on its democracy and where we’re projected to spend $716 billion on “national defense” in 2019, there is no logical reason why any technical issues regarding voting should exist. Standardizing and streamlining the process of voting would certainly not be difficult from a financial or technical standpoint. Michigan, for example, just passed Proposal 3, taking them from one of the hardest states to vote in to one of the easiest. The proposal includes such measures as providing the option for straight-party voting, automatic voter registration, provision of absentee ballots for any reason and auditing election results to ensure accuracy.
As long as white supremacists – I mean, Republicans – hold power, though, there’s no way such measures will ever be implemented on a federal level. This isn’t even to mention the general inaccessibility of voting to physically disabled people, working-class people who can’t afford to take off work in order to vote and students who could be penalized for missing class instead of voting.
But voting, while important, is not the “end all, be all” of civic engagement, and it certainly will not be what liberates the disenfranchised. Snapping a cute “I Voted” selfie for social media or making voting the height of your “activism” is kind of just like giving yourself a participation trophy. In the words of woke queen Taylor Swift, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.”
Though this will undoubtedly raise controversy among my fellow student activists, I’m here to defend the non-voters and the third-party voters. It’s unfair that we should be forced to choose between a “lesser of two evils,” or that we should be blamed for fracturing the vote just because we vote for a candidate closer to our personal beliefs. The real evils at work here are racism, ableism, misogyny and everyone’s favorite “ism” – plain ol’ capitalism. And none of those are structures we can dismantle through voting alone.
I’ll always fight for greater access to voting because as flawed as our system is, the right to participate is one that should be extended equally to all, and because voting down ballot can and does effect real change. But true #resistance doesn’t start at the polls. It starts by materially and emotionally supporting the women, survivors, LGBTQ+ people and POC in your life. It starts with grassroots organizing and protesting. It starts not with misdirected anger and frustration, but with radical love and empathy.