What is voter suppression? Tactics used against communities of color throughout history, in 2020

ByNzinga Blake and Alex Meier KABC logo
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
What is voter suppression?
What is voter suppression? Experts explain how some American citizens have experienced barriers to voting, particularly in communities of color.

NEW YORK -- As Election Day draws close, some American citizens have experienced barriers to voting, particularly in communities of color.

While stories about voter suppression across the nation made news headlines, civil rights activists and attorneys from the Transformative Justice Coalition have been recruiting 3,000 African American lawyers to be part of election protection.

Barbara Arnwine, founder and president of the Transformative Justice Coalition, and her partner, attorney Daryl D. Jones, have been hard at work trying to educate and inform voters about their voting rights across the country.

When asked to define voter suppression, they said that it was important for voters to understand the historical context of these tactics trying to prevent certain groups from voting or having their ballots counted.

"The one thing that people need to understand is when we're talking about voter suppression, it's not new. It goes back to the 1800s. Understand that the Ku Klux Klan came about, because you had people of color that were now gaining economic and political strength. And once they were able to get to the point of being able to vote, you then have the Klan coming in to scare them to intimidate them to put the fear in place. Well, folks, it hasn't stopped," Jones said.

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They are currently working to address various forms of voter suppression tactics throughout the country, such as voter ID laws in North Carolina, the implementation of one ballot box per county in Texas and fires set to ballot boxes in California.

Yet the two remain optimistic about voter turnout in this year's election.

"There's a lot of good news. One is that the majority of people who go to vote aren't going to have problems. That's one piece of good news. The second piece of good news is that you can affirmatively take steps to protect your vote. The third piece of good news is that people are voting," Arnwine said.

Arnwine and Jones highly suggested voting early so that if you end up at the wrong polling location and you are turned away, you have a few days to identify your assigned voting location.

"If you go to vote.org, they will tell you specifically the polling place where you're supposed to go and exercise your vote," Daryl said.

They also offered some guidance on the proper steps to take to protect your voting rights.

"If you get into the position, where they're trying to say, 'There's some issue with your registration,' and where you are to vote...call 866-O-U-R-V-O-T-E and ask the election protection people to help you out and give you some guidance," Daryl said.