Ohioans and Americans Have Come Together for our Voting Rights Before. Let’s Do It Again.

October 3, 2022 | Ohio

Ohioans & Americans Have Come Together for our Voting Rights Before – Let’s Do It Again

September 27, 2022 | By Daisha Williams, CDF-Ohio Consultant & University of Dayton Undergraduate 

Voting has gone through many changes since Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Governments are suited among Men, deriving their Powers from the Consent of the Governed,” in the Declaration of Independence, granting Americans the right to vote in a democracy. America has come a long way from when only white male property owners were granted the right to vote. Former President John Adams even believed expanding voting rights could be dangerous.  But when the American people speak out, stand together, and advocate for our rights with our government, we get results.

Take the 15th amendment that granted all men the right to vote, the 19th amendment that granted this to all women, and the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 that granted Indigenous people this same right. Even when those rights were infringed upon in the 1950s and ‘60s, with action came the Voting Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting poll taxes, literacy exams, and other means to cause a gap between the people and the polls. Things get done when we move as one band with one sound.

What caused a riptide in the transparency in voting is the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, where the court found section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. This permitted states the freedom to make election changes on their own rather than going through the federal government for approval of changes. Now, in 2022, American citizens are being faced with infringement on many different fronts from their state officials.

Because of this infringement, the United States may be approaching challenging times that require us to again visit how voting is conducted in America. In the wake of election deniers, which will show up as candidates for office on 60% of American voters’ ballots in the upcoming election, another problem facing voting accessibility is the lack of it growing and the surge in proposed policies across the country to make it more difficult to vote than ever in recent history. In 2021, over 400 anti-voter bills were introduced in 48 states. In Ohio, HB 294 proposes to restrict ballot drop boxes, reduces the number of days available for early voting, and even goes so far as to propose tossing absentee ballots that are not sealed with two envelopes. Candidates across the nation are vowing to force large groups to reregister to become a voter, make it harder to vote by mail, and even declining to certify an election result.

How does this affect various groups across the nation? It places hurdles before our elderly, physically disabled, racial groups, and the LGBTQ+ community. With restrictions growing against the identification process for voting, transgender people have difficulties identifying themselves if the identity on their ID does not align with their gender expression, while also running into financial and legal problems trying to get the two to align. A 2019 study found that 49% of transgender adults and 55% of transgender adults of color avoid voting in at least one election throughout their lives because of their fear of facing discrimination. In fact, 34% of voters in the queer community state that voter identification requirements have prevented them from voting in the past.

With even more social groups placed at risk of their right to vote being infringed upon, the time to speak out and demand justice as past trailblazers have is now. In 2021, on the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, public figures Rep. Joyce Beatty, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Martin Luther King III gathered for the demonstration, March On for Voting Rights. It becomes more and more clear that it will take more than marching to see a difference and make change, you must get people registered. Fortunately, since the Dobbs decision, there has been a surge in women registering to vote in states such as Ohio, Kansas, Idaho, and Pennsylvania. This is a good start for mobilizing – but we need to go further.

At the federal level, two pro-voting bills have both passed the House of Representatives and have been introduced in the Senate. Bills HR1: For the People Act of 2021 and HR4: John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 both advocate for a modernized way of ensuring the right to vote is secured at all levels for all people in America. HR1 contains national voting standards for voter registration and mail-in voting, the use of independent commissions to approve congressional districts to end gerrymandering, and a requirement that presidential candidates release their tax returns, something that former President Donald Trump never did. HR4 aims to update the Voting Rights Act’s formula to determine which states have a pattern of voter discrimination, accommodate voters with at least a 180-day announcement of last-minute voting changes that do not heavily affect voters, and expand the federal government’s authority over US jurisdiction where a substantial risk of discrimination and infringement is present.

These two bills will create a better voting experience for all voters, including our youngest voters in the polling place. With modernized voting acts, Gen-Z voters will have a voting experience catered to their needs as voters – more transparency, accessibility to voting polls, and little to no hurdles for their unique voting experience. College students will be able to either vote for their college’s elections or vote for their hometown elections. With bills like HR1 & HR4 aiming to assist in the struggle of mail -in or absentee voters, college students will have this option. The legislation makes sure that inner-city youth as well as those with physical disabilities will be updated and informed of any changes regarding their voting precinct, which will allow them time to prepare to vote and make appropriate plans to get to the polls, preventing a situation that may prevent them from voting like finding out at the last minute of these changes from state leaders. LGBTQ+ youth will have the option to mail in their vote or be an absentee voter should they feel discomfort going to the polling place.

The purpose of our democracy is to guarantee that the right to vote is accessible to any and every American. Restricting different avenues of voting, limiting ways to cast a ballot, and  creating barriers between the ballot box and the people disgraces what America stands for. America stands for democracy, freedom, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One cannot live this American Dream if our Congress is not representative of all American citizens given that all Americans can freely and without undue difficulty exercise the right to vote for those who represent them. To participate in our democracy, to register to vote and get others registered, to stand together as people and demand a representative political unit, like the changemakers before us in the 18th and 19th century, is how we get what we as Americans deserve now.

Make sure your voice is heard!

To register to vote or update your voter registration information to account for change in address or other personal information, go to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website here by the October 11 deadline.