As the resident queen of Going To Whole Foods And Spending A Ton Of Money But Forgetting The Product I Actually Needed, I'm only now developing the trait of double-checking things. I describe my typical approach as "Wrong But Strong," a term my former co-worker used to describe anyone who fully commits to something, whether or not it is correct. Discovering the payoffs of double-checking has lured me into a false sense of superiority, however, and now I'm constantly smug towards people who don't double-check everything. Which brings me to this: September 25 was National Voter Registration Day, and you need to double-check whether you're registered.
First celebrated in 2012, National Voter Registration Day is observed on the fourth Tuesday in September, and volunteers around the country take to the streets in a coordinated effort to bring awareness to voter registration opportunities for people who may not have registered otherwise. We've all seen, more than ever before, the power of voting in American politics.
Real talk: Voter suppression is real and it is happening and is truly, truly frightening. Politicians are so afraid of losing power that some are doing anything they can to diminish the rights of people who threaten their power...meaning voters. Meaning constituents. Meaning the people who put them in power in the first place.
Don't believe me? In Randolph County, Georgia. there was a recent proposal to close seven of their nine polling places before the general election in November. Randolph County is the 144th largest county in Georgia (of 159), with 7,000 people living there. The county's reasoning was that the polling locations in question did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. So instead of finding other locations, or, you know, making those locations ADA-qualified, they decided to close them, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's reporting. Because logic. They were perfectly fine for the May primaries and June run-off elections, though. But now...!
Did I mention that Randolph County is also a rural, impoverished, and majority black county (97 percent), in a state where Stacey Abrams is running for the chance to be the first black female governor ever? It's just one way voters of color are being suppressed—after all, requiring an ID to vote has intrinsic racist bias and voter ID laws disproportionally impact black voters. Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant in North Carolina, even pretty much admitted to such to the Washington Post:
Longtime Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, a fixture in North Carolina politics, said the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse ... "Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?" he said, explaining that Republicans, like any political party, want to protect their majority. While GOP lawmakers might have passed the law to suppress some voters, Wrenn said, that does not mean it was racist ... "Look, if African Americans voted overwhelmingly Republican, they would have kept early voting right where it was," Wrenn said. "It wasn’t about discriminating against African Americans. They just ended up in the middle of it because they vote Democrat."
This plan would have been likely in the "illegal" category until 2013, when the U.S Supreme Court effectively gutted the "preclearance" clause in Section 5 which would require the county to obtain federal permission before changing its election procedures. This action single-handedly lead to voter suppression across the country, and it is dangerous. It's disinfranchisement. It's discrimination.
The person who first made this "suggestion" (for lack of a kinder word), is a consultant working under Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State in Georgia...who also happens to be running as the Republican gubernatorial nominee opposite Abrams, and who is also all about voter suppression. (Kemp later pretended he didn't put this on the table and recommend the closings after a massive backlash.)
Side note: I wish the super-villains in real life had as much nuance as the ones in the books I read. Be a little less obvious, guys.
Let's also not forget the fact that Brian Kemp also voted 53,000 voters in Georgia because they didn't vote in prior elections recently. Or that since 2012, Kemp's office has "cancelled" (read: suppressed) over 1.4 million voter registrations, and nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone were "cancelled" (read: DOESN'T WANT YOU TO VOTE). And don't even get me started on "Exact Match" laws and how they actively work to stop eligible voters from voting. I'm not saying the election in Georgia is rigged in Kemp's favor, but he's Secretary of State in a state where he's running for Governor. I'm not saying the election is rigged in Kemp's favor, but a lot of voters already do.
If you're not sure whether you're registered to vote, or you just want to double-check (good!), most states have an online voter database where you can check on your registration status. Headcount has a list where you can see if it's available in your state—otherwise, you can reach out to your city's municipal office and they can verify your status. If you're not super into any of that, you can also just re-register to vote. It's not voter fraud; your previous registration (or lack thereof) will just be overrated with the new information.
If you're not registered to vote, WHY THE HELL NOT? I will wait patiently here until you do so. In 37 states, you can register to vote online. Stop reading this article and go do that instead, it's a much better use of your time. You can find out when the voter registration deadline is for your state here.
If you've moved since you last registered, even if it's just around the corner, re-register to vote. I promise you, shrugging it off and hoping for the best is not worth the potential headache. In college, a friend of mine moved two houses down and his polling location changed. Add "changing voter registration" to your moving checklist. Also, if you've gotten married or changed your name since your last registration, better go re-register!
In 15 states (and a commonwealth), eligible voters are allowed to register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day. The benefits to same-day registration are next level: increased voter turnout (because if you're like me, you're gonna show up to something that requires the least amount of effort, and voting is literally pushing a button to save the world); it's cheaper; it gets rid of a registration deadline that limits people when they're most interested, fixes the inaccuracies that can occur in voter registries; it allows people for whom voting may be an indulgence rather than a privilege to vote–as in, lower-income, geographically mobile, young voters, and voters of color (say it again for the people in the back), and stops the nonsense of provisional ballots.
Wait, I hear you say, what's a provisional ballot? These are offered to citizens who believe they are registered to vote but for whatever reason do not appear on the voter registry rolls. In the 2008 presidential election, 1 in 4 provisional ballots were rejected. In the case of your registration status being called into question, don't ask–demand a provisional ballot, in the case you feel you were wrongly removed from the voter registry. All the fun of voting, none of the benefits of voting.
In the most recent New York primary election, there was evidence of registered voters being pushed into provisional ballots when they were unable to be confirmed in their own voter rolls.
I mean, I'm not saying it's voter suppression, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it might be something that rhymes with "motor sushmession."
Here's what to do if you find yourself turned away at the polls:
- Know Your Voter ID Requirements (You can find those here, unless you're one of those lucky 15 states with same-day registration)
- Cast a Provisional Ballot (If you do, follow up with your election official to make sure your vote was counted and to ask why you weren't allowed to vote.)
- Call an Election Hotline (866-OUR-VOTE, or 866-687-8683)
- Help Others (If you see something, say something. You can tell someone they're allowed to cast a provisional ballot. You can call an election hotline and say there are discriminatory practices going on.)
Vote, and vote often. Know your rules and your rights. Voter roll purges typically go after inactive voters, and the National Voting Rights Act requires states to wait multiple election cycles without voter participation before purging them from the list, because the U.S. Supreme Court said so in Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph Institute. Despite voter fraud basically being a conspiracy theory and is rare, nearing on nonexistent, it is continually used as a reason to make it harder to vote. They are actively trying to make it harder for you to vote. They're afraid of what happens when people vote and it doesn't work in their favor. If you think your vote doesn't matter, then why are they trying to make it harder for you to do it in the first place?
Vote, damn it.
If nothing else, you should vote because you get a sticker out of it, and everyone likes stickers. Do not @ me.
From explainers to essays, cheat sheets to candidate analysis, we're breaking down exactly what you need to know about this year's midterms. Visit Marie Claire's Midterms Guide for more.
Amanda Mitchell is a writer and podcaster with bylines at Marie Claire, OprahMag, Allure, Byrdie, Stylecaster, Bon Appetit, and more. Her work exists at the apex of beauty, pop culture, and absurdity. A human Funfetti cake, she watches too much television, and her favorite season is awards season. You can read more of her work at amandaelizabethmitchell.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @lochnessmanda.
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