Minnesotans can find plenty to complain about, but when it comes to voting, we are quite lucky. Minnesota has some of the most lenient voting laws in the country—voters can register the day of the election, online with an ID or Social Security number or by filling out hard copies of registration forms. Any eligible voter can vote absentee, without an excuse, or vote early in person. While it seems logical that policies like these that remove barriers to voting should be the norm, they are unfortunately out of the ordinary.
In many states, people face restrictive and discriminatory voting laws that aim to prevent underrepresented groups from voting. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), since the 2012 presidential election, up to 17 states have cut early voting, enacted strict voter identification laws, eliminated same-day registration or enforced other hurdles to voter registration. The upcoming election is the first one in half a century in which Americans will not be fully protected by the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In 1964, the VRA was signed as a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and aimed to eliminate barriers to voting. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the VRA, allowing states to enact and maintain hostile voter registration policies. The essence of Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion was that several key provisions of VRA were obsolete in society today.
Let that soak in for a few minutes. This is shocking, unacceptable and overlooked.
People cite many reasons for not voting. It would be easy to be apathetic about elections. Many don’t like the presidential candidates. Minnesota is not a battleground state. But there are hundreds more reasons why we must vote.
Vote because there are those who cannot. On November 8, thousands of people will not submit their ballots because of hostile and discriminatory policies. Vote because it’s a privilege, a right and a responsibility. Vote because the highest court in the United States believes that it is no longer necessary to protect people from race-based voter discrimination. Vote because we will not stand for silencing our neighbors.
Your vote matters. Even if it is clear who will win in your state, the margin of victory that an elected politician has carries an extraordinary amount of weight. Higher voter turnout makes our democracy more representative of the ever-growing electorate. Vote to hold our representatives accountable. Millennials will soon be the largest generation in the electorate and should have a say in our government.
Macalester has recently partnered with TurboVote, a website which helps you register to vote in the state of your choice and request an absentee ballot. In the amount of time you spent reading this article, you could have registered—go to macalester.turbovote.org right now if you don’t believe us!
Just registering, however, is not enough. Data about Macalester students in past elections have shown that there is a large disconnect between registering to vote and actually voting; it is time to bridge that gap. TurboVote will send reminders about upcoming elections that include all of the relevant information you may need on the day of the election, including your polling place and voting hours. TurboVote will even send information about what races will be on the ballot, so that voters know what to expect come election day. This tool is open to the entire Macalester community—students, staff, faculty and families. Macalester is lucky to have this incredible partnership, so let’s take advantage of it and increase our voting rates on November 8. Be an ad(vote)cate for your rights!
See you at the polls.
Rachel Auerbach ‘17, CEC
Rachel Ladd ‘17, MCSG