Opinion: Is Partisanship obstructing your right to vote?

Will Simonson, Staff Writer

For University students, many of whom will be voting for the first time in the upcoming midterm election, the voting process is not straightforward or simple, and it is made more complicated by recent changes in voting laws. Within the past year, courts in Ohio, Wisconsin, and, most recently, North Carolina have ruled upon legislation placing new limitations and restrictions on the voting process. In Ohio, the courts upheld legislation that did away with the first week of early voting, the only week that allowed same-day registration. In Wisconsin, new limits have been placed on the type of accepted voter identification, requiring voters to show a government issued ID or certain specific student identification cards. Despite obvious discrimination against minority groups, federal courts denied pleas for a hearing to challenge the change. In North Carolina, a law was passed to eliminate same-day registration and out of precinct provisional voting. Aspects of the law in North Carolina have been overturned, reinstating same-day registration and out of precinct voting, but the decision upholds other questionable restrictions. The commonalities in these cases are simple: the recent developments indicate that political party ideologies have permeated and stained the electoral system, leaving voters confused.

Time and again, conservative legislatures have complicated the voting system, and recently liberals have been challenging the legality of the laws in the courts. In many of these cases, the courts are ruling in favor of the side they ideologically agree with, and voters suffer the consequences of these political games. The principal right of citizens in a democratic society is their ability to vote, and when partisan politics inhibit citizens’ ability to utilize this tool, there is a fundamental problem. Without the Average Joe being able to easily vote, this country no longer is a representative democracy.

Conservatives justify limits on voting on the grounds of protecting the integrity of the election and saving money, but what they are really doing is severely burdening individuals’ rights to vote. By shortening the early voting period, restricting voter identification laws, and doing away with same-day voter registration, conservative politicians are hurting all citizens, particularly minority groups and young people who have limited time to vote and have the lowest ownership rates of government issued ID. They are attempting to decrease the influence of groups that are typically opposed to their ideology, specifically these two groups that historically align their votes with Democratic candidates.

These recent nationwide voting law changes are unconstitutional, and are reminiscent of Reconstruction Era actions to prevent African Americans from voting. Perhaps some of these conservative politicians have forgotten the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, in which case their former civics teachers should be ashamed. Or perhaps they’re aware of the law and simply choose to ignore it in hopes of succeeding in confusing the electorate that opposes them.

“Eleventh-hour changes in election rules have traditionally been disfavored precisely because the risk of disruption is simply too high,” said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Voting Rights Project. Voters across the country are confused about the recent changes, and this will certainly lead to many people being turned away at the polls, or not even attempting to vote due to frustration with lack of clear information. Further impacts remain to be seen, but one thing is certain: this election season certainly will be an interesting one that raises many ethical and moral questions about our Republic.

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