Survey: Voter Suppression In Election 2016

There are many reasons why the 2016 election turned out as it did. One reason, voter suppression, played a particularly central role in the outcome on November 8. It is no coincidence that numerous state legislatures have implemented laws that make it harder to vote, aided by a Supreme Court ruling that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The main ways in which state legislatures have achieved this, according to the ACLU, are by reducing the ability to vote early, implementing stricter voter ID laws and purging of voter rolls.

Several states also reduced the number of polling locations, making it difficult for certain voters to cast their ballots. In Arizona’s Maricopa County, officials reduced polling locations open in 2012 by 70%.

According to a poll conducted in late November by Rad Campaign and Lincoln Park Strategies, commissioned by the Craig Newmark Foundation, restrictions on voting had a significant impact on turnout and disproportionately affected younger voters and minorities.



Key findings, after polling 3,050 people online and 450 by phone in North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Arizona, showed that 31% of all voters said they were not able to get time off from work to vote. That was especially the case with blacks (41%) and Hispanics (34%).

Hispanic voters faced more significant voter suppression problems than other groups -- being twice as likely than whites to wait in lines for longer than 30 to 60 minutes, and 14% said their voting eligibility was questioned by voting officials, the same percentage as white and black voters combined.

Some 47% of Hispanics wanted to vote, but were unable for various reasons. Among black voters who didn’t cast a ballot, 42% wanted to, but were unable and 29% of white voters didn’t cast a ballot despite wanting to.

"We need to invest in our critical election infrastructure,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, commenting on the survey.

“New voting machines should be a top priority to boost security and reduce congestion at the polls. Automatic voter registration would help streamline our elections, adding millions to the rolls and increasing accuracy."

There are a number of digital approaches to address growing voter suppression. Rock the Vote and Project Vote are being joined by apps like Phone2Action, which helps educate voters on polling locations, as well as explaining choices on the ballot itself.

Beyond voter suppression, there is a need to reignite an interest in policy and in civic engagement. Making it easier to vote is one important step, but finding novel ways to engage with voters at scale is crucial.

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