Voting is the heart of democracy.
As long as people are given the chance to vote, to choose their representatives, and their stance on social and political issues, then democracy is working. That is why it is important to ensure that every eligible voter is registered and will exercise their right of suffrage because if not, it defeats the purpose of democracy. It is like giving a hungry person bread, but sealed in a steel box. A society that makes voting hard for people is a pretentious democratic society.
A government that is truly democratic ensures that its laws do not discriminate nor discourage people from voting, especially those belonging to underrepresented communities of color, young people, seniors, or low-income people. The government should legislate laws that make voting much easier for all citizens, particularly those underrepresented groups whose voices are often unheard in the halls of government offices.
On Wednesday, I attended a briefing and a panel discussion on the impact of restrictive voting changes in the 2016 U.S. elections on Latino voters, hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and elected officials. According to NALEO, more than 875,000 Latino voters may find it more difficult to cast ballots this year than in 2012. This is due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 wherein voters lost the protection of the critical piece of the Voting Rights Act; the preclearance process. Since Shelby County was decided, many of the states, counties and cities that were formerly subject to anti-discrimination review have adopted new laws or practices that now make it harder to vote.
“[A] true democracy is one where every eligible citizen has full access to the electoral process, whatever their social, economic, or political status in life.”
Many of the underrepresented members of the society already feel disengaged from the political system, and skeptical of the importance and potential influence of their votes. The fact that laws are being legislated to make it harder for them to register and vote does not help in ensuring that our democracy is working. People should be vigilant on restrictive voting laws, whatever their political affiliations are, because a true democracy is one where every eligible citizen has full access to the electoral process, whatever their social, economic, or political status in life.
It is just my second week here at Project Vote and I have already learned a lot about the United States’ electoral process, as well as the work of different organizations, such as NALEO, in ensuring that every citizen of the United States will be able to cast their votes and have a say on the policies that govern them. Next week, I will be flying to North Carolina to observe Project Vote’s voter registration training to their partner organizations that share the same mission of engaging underrepresented Americans in the democratic process.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Project Vote.