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Voter restrictions threaten democracy

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Many of us know the history of Jim Crow laws and their tireless effort to restrict the right to vote from marginalized communities. However, many of us do not realize that although those laws have been legally removed, there are still numerous voter restrictions in place today affecting marginalized communities across the country. 

The use of purging voter rolls, felon disenfranchisement, the removal of polling places, and the requirement of an address contribute to voter suppression across America. Marginalized voters from black, Latinx and Native American communities are especially at risk. 

Journalist Greg Palast found that over the last decade, Ohio has purged over 2 million voters without informing them to re-register. Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp purged over 1 million voter registrations since 2012. Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana have also been found purging votes to contribute to the issue as well. 

In Native American communities, such as Standing Rock in North Dakota, the requirement of an address proves to be a high hurdle for many to overcome. Reservations typically lack street numbers and signs, since members of the community all have a high familiarity with each other and where they live. Many Native Americans use P.O. boxes, which are no longer accepted as adequate street addresses. Much of the time this marginalized community is expected to go to law enforcement to be assigned an acceptable street address. 

Going to law enforcement to be assigned an address proves faulty when the sheriff claims no time to assign one, or instead gives the address of a bar which only further stigmatizes the Native American community and alcoholism, like what happened to Terry Yellow Fat in Rolette County, North Dakota. 

Florida, Kentucky, Iowa and Virginia all have lifetime voting bans put in place for anyone who has committed a felony, regardless if they have already completed the time. In these states, felons have the ability to testify for voter restoration but they are most often only granted a few minutes to make their case, which is ultimately decided by one judge anyway. 

In Dodge City, Kansas, a predominantly Hispanic populated community, the official polling place was moved to the outskirts of the city about a mile away from the nearest bus stop. When inside city limits, there was only one placed in a predominantly white neighborhood. 

These restrictions are hardly publicized, and seldom taken into account by other states with fewer restrictions. Voting is a right of every American citizen, and for minority communities to be continually barred from their constitutional right to vote is a complete and utter failure on behalf of the American government. 

There are still laws in place to restrict voting access to citizens with constitutional rights. The American public needs to be made aware of these issues, and needs to stand up against discrimination such as this.

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