THE attempts to prevent voters from reaching polling stations, increase waiting times to vote or add restrictions on who can voteare becoming problems in democracies around the world.
Techniques vary, but the intention is the same: to make voting more difficult.
In the recent US Midterm elections, lines at polling stations in the US state of Georgia left citizens in line for hours, often without access to seats or water, following the introduction of new rules.
Under those laws, the number of places people could drop in their ballots was reduced and opening hours restricted. For example, the number of mailboxes in four Georgia counties with a large number of African-American residents was reduced from 107 to 25.
Voter suppression it has a long history in the United States that dates back to colonial timesthe. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union said that more than 48 states have recently attempted to introduce more than 400 anti-voting laws. Efforts to suppress voting rights included voter ID laws, similar to Election Act 2022 of the United Kingdom. Other measures mentioned included the elimination of district-level electoral rolls and what it called systemic disenfranchisement aimed at “disproportionately affecting people of color, students, seniors, and people with disabilities».
In the last two years, US states have passed 28 bills increasing legislation on electoral crimes. Stolen election conspiracy stories stoked by Republican lawmakers after President Donald Trump lost his election presidential election 2020, have gave impetus to many of these laws.
The Georgia State Detective Agency, for example, has received summons powers to seize election-related documents, while the New Hampshire state attorney general is required to investigate any allegations of voter fraud by election officials. And it’s not just officials who are being targeted. In South Carolinafraudulent voting or incorrect registration to vote became a felony with a prison sentence of up to five years.
Voting rights for US citizens have been enshrined in Voting Rights Act (1965). The act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement campaign that culminated in the historic march of Martin Luther King Jr. between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. The Voting Rights Act made it illegal for local governments, state or federalprevent people from voting because of their ethnicity or color. But in the last decadeafter a series of Supreme Court rulings, the deed it was weakened. This allowed states to pass election laws without first approving them with the Supreme Court.
But it’s not just the United States that has changed the rules on voting. L’UK Elections Act 2022which became law in April, will likely have a substantial impact on voting habits. Probably the most significant fact is that voters will now be required to produce photo ID when will they vote in the UK general election and in the UK local elections. The government estimates those without the necessary photo ID to make up about 2% of the population, critics say is closer to 6%.
The British government has stated that such measures will protect voters from electoral fraud And “they will protect the integrity of democracy in the UK». But some local election officials are concerned about how quickly the government is implementing these changes. This, along with the lack of clarity about the rules, has led to fears that thousands of people may be disenfranchised and that election results may be challenged in court.
The UK government hopes that providing a free electoral ID card will be enough to prevent an estimated 2.1 million people without the necessary identification from being disenfranchised. But researchers have identified problems in the United States with the supply of a similar type of free ID cardincluding the long travel distances required to obtain them.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labor MP for Brighton, said the type of ID card accepted by the government excluded young voters. He argued that there was a clear element of voter suppression, while Baroness Natalie Bennett called the Election Act «voter suppression straight from playbook of the american right».
And it’s not just in the Northern Hemisphere that voter suppression is the order of the day. In recent Brazilian elections which saw the incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro and the challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva challenge each other, the federal traffic police (PRF) she was accused of suppress supporters of Lula through an increasing number of street searches on Election Day. The PRF, an organization close to Bolsonaro, had set up checkpoints in areas where Lula had considerable support. These operations, according to the PRF, had to «ensure mobility, safety and fight crime on federal highways».
Brazil’s senior electoral chiefAlexandre de Moraes ordered the PRF to cease all vehicle searches, which had increased by 80%, until the end of the elections. According to reports, the PRF had stopped over 550 public buses as it claimed that Moraes’ order did not apply to all federal highway operations.
This was Bolsonaro’s latest attempt to undermine democratic institutions. Echoing Trump’s claims, Bolsonaro has repeatedly denounced voter fraud and has attacked the judiciary to strengthen its position. Other reports accused Bolsonaro of “promoting the large-scale militarization of his and his government.” public distrust in the voting system». After losing the election, he’s still not unclear if Bolsonaro he will concede to his opponent.
And there are other potential threats ahead. In the mid-term US while there was widespread pushback against ‘denial’ candidates who have talked about reforming the US voting system and falsely claimed that the last presidential election was ‘stolen’, significantly some are taking office. These include state secretaries in Alabama, Indiana and Wyoming, who will likely be the top electoral administrators in each state. These newly elected officials will be in positions of power to oversee and reject ballots.
Any government, regardless of ideological persuasion, which deliberately excludes its potential opponents, risks undermining the democracy of a nation. Sadly, it seems that many incumbent politicians around the world don’t care.