Voting restrictions show a backslide in democracy


Matt Heineman, Opinion Columnist

Since President Donald Trump’s election, some political experts have wondered whether the quality of American democracy is in decline or close to being irrevocably damaged.

American democracy is in fact dying, and those who do not support Trump should prepare to take more drastic measures and prepare themselves for the worst.  

Republicans are already planning to undermine our 2020 Presidential election by making it harder for presumed Democrats to vote. 

For example, states such as Georgia and Ohio have passed laws whereby citizens are removed from the voter rolls due to inactivity from participating in our elections, according to a Dec. 2019 New York Times article by Elisha Brown.

Due to these recent events, many political experts are sounding the alarm about disenfranchisement once again. 

 Another New York Times reporter, Reid J. Epstein, explains hundreds of voting locations have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, in an April 13 New York Times article.

Because of these closures, Democratic lawmakers wanted to postpone the election until June.  

One area in particular that has been affected by the closure of voting locations is Milwaukee.  Milwaukee has just five of over a hundred of its voting locations open, creating hours-long lines before one can cast their vote.

These lines disproportionately affect voters that are perceived to be democrats.  This assumption about the voters’ political leanings has to do with the fact that urban areas tend to lean liberal.  Moreover, Milwaukee includes almost all the black population of Wisconsin, and this voting block historically votes Democrat. 

In fact, over 80 percent of black citizens regularly identify as Democrats and no Republican candidate has ever recieved over 13 percent of the African American vote according to Ismail K. White, a professor at Duke University, and Chryl N. Laird, a professor at Bowdoin College in their article “Why Are Blacks Democrats?”

In Wisconsin specifically, Milwaukee was one of the only districts that voted blue in 2016, where Hillary Clinton won over 65 percent of the votes. Furthermore, 38.8 percent of Milwaukee’s population is black, which is well above the national percentage of 13.4 percent, all according to the United States Census.

Since Milwaukee includes almost the entire black population of the state and is a strong blue district and because Milwaukee voters are behind their suburban and more conservative counterparts in mailing back their absentee ballots, Republicans refusing to accommodate Democrats’ reasonable demand to delay the election helps ensure that Republicans win the election by limiting the voting ability of a blue district with a black population that leans blue.

The refusal to delay the election makes it easier for Republicans to win. The state Supreme Court, controlled by Republican justices “overturned the governor’s request to postpone the election, a decision that the state’s largest newspaper, which previously endorsed Republican leaders including former Gov. Scott Walker, called undemocratic,” and rightly so. 

Moreover, Brown says in her aforementioned New York Times piece that Wisconsin’s voter identification laws, which require a photo ID with a current address in order to vote disproportionately disenfranchise black voters who are overwhelmingly liberal.  

This is just another example of Republicans making it harder for likely Democratic voters to cast their ballots. This policy is bad for democracy precisely because it disenfranchises voters.

This policy disenfranchises some black Milwaukee residents because their district has some of the highest eviction rates in the country, rates that prevented 17,000 registered voters from casting a ballot in 2016, according to a 2017 University of Wisconsin study.

In concluding, it is important that readers recognize that former Vice President Joe Biden is not only going up against incumbent President Trump but he is also running in an election that is orchestrated to make it harder for his potential supporters to cast their ballot.  

Four more years of Trump likely means our democracy will only be undermined further and hateful rhetoric and action against minorities such as the LGBT community, people of color and religious minorities will continue and be heightened.

In history, there is the famous “boiling frog” analogy, where a frog that is put in gradually heated water does not realize it is being boiled alive until it has begun burning. This analogy describes situations where countries do not react boldly enough in calling out their governments when their rights are first infringed upon, and only react once it is too late.

I do not want to live in this reality, and as a result think it is time that liberals and leftists expect the worst.