In the recent presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, there have been many reports and allegations of voter disenfranchisement throughout the United States. Most of these allegations have been against Republicans, including some employees of organizations that are meant to “get out the vote”. With the presidential elections in 2016 predicted to be a very close battle between Democrats and Republicans, voter disenfranchisement might prove to be critical in swinging the election one way or the other.
Why Voter Disenfranchisement is Usually Conducted by Republicans
Most cases of voter disenfranchisement have been conducted by Republicans against those who are likely to vote Democrat. The reasons for this are myriad, but are mostly grounded in the fact that a lot of dialogue from Republican leaders demonizes many liberal voters as freeloaders, or as people who are only voting based on things like race. When people start to believe those things about fellow citizens and their reasons for voting, it becomes easy disregard their right to vote. With remarks such as Romney’s statements about 47% of the country being freeloaders who will vote for Obama no matter what (Washington Post), it is easy to see how some Republicans can justify voter disenfranchisement.
Who is Targeted and What are the Methods?
Voter disenfranchisement is often directed at minorities. One of the biggest reasons is that minorities have historically voted Democrat, so statistically speaking, preventing minority votes means that the democratic candidate is losing more votes than the republican candidate (The Atlantic). One example of initiatives targeting the voting rights of the poor and minorities is the recent push for strict voter ID laws. In the past 10 years there have only been 50 charges of voter fraud across all types of elections in the United States (The Atlantic) – this hardly represents a clear and present danger our democratic system, yet many republicans at the state level are pushing harder than ever to require ID’s at voting booths. This disproportionately affects poor communities, where people often do not have the time or money to register for the identification that would be required to vote. With voter ID laws popping up in the legislatures of many states, it could have a significant effect on a close presidential election.
There have also been cases of “get out the vote” initiatives partaking in voter disenfranchisement. For example, in the 2012 election, a man who was distributing and collecting voter registration forms for a firm hired by the Republican Party in Virginia was caught and charged with throwing out Democrat voter forms (CBS News). He had sorted through all the forms he collected, and threw out only the ones who registered as Democrats. Had he been successful, those voters who thought they had registered would have been unable to vote when they showed up at the booths on Election Day.