When news hit of the leaked opinion signaling the Supreme Court’s overture to overturn Roe v. Wade, much talk bubbled up about voting: “Make sure you register to vote!” “The midterms are coming up, so make sure you get involved now.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) echoed these same sentiments in speaking about the leaked opinion–that the responsibility falls upon voters come November.
“To the American people, I say this: the elections this November will have consequences because the rights of 100 million women are now on the ballot. To help fight this court’s awful decision, I urge every American to make their voices heard this week and this year,” he said.
This isn’t to say that voting isn’t a powerful tool or that it’s not needed for democracy to function. However, how strong is said tool if everybody can’t partake in the activity equally? It seems callous to tell marginalized people to make their voices heard without addressing the systemic reasons they cannot do it freely. Americans turned out in record numbers for the 2020 Presidental election, but besides that, it’s time to look at why voting is not an end-all, be-all solution.
Since the 2013 decision of Shelby County v. Holder gutted the preclearance part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, multitudes of anti-voter laws have been passed in states around the country. You’re telling Black people and people of color who now only have one polling place to go to, or who work a job where they can’t get time off because Election Day isn’t a holiday, to vote.
To ignore the evolving disenfranchisement which has eroded rights dating back to the poll taxes of the 1890s, the relentless opposition of the Republican party, and the lack of nerve of some in the Democratic party, is to do a disservice to those most affected.
The ghost of the 2016 election is haunting us. Still, the skeletons in America’s long history of voting obstruction continue to lead to situations where the few in power ignore the voices of the many. So, as representatives and citizens ramp up their “vote or die” campaigns for November, I hope they remember people who have died and continue to just for a chance to participate in a process that often excludes them.