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            The right to vote is one of the rights
granted to citizens of the United States of America. It is enshrined in the
Constitution as a basic right of citizenship. Over the years, this right has
been amended to be more inclusive. The 15th Amendment was passed to
allow African American men to vote. But, it was not until 1920 that women were
allowed to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The
Voting Rights Acts of 1965, was signed into law with the intent of overcoming
legal barriers placed at both state and local levels that did not allow for
African Americans to exercise their right to vote, as granted in the 15th
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  

Despite expansive voting rights on
paper, concerns over voter suppression have always existed. The use and abuse
of election laws and policies to prevent eligible voters from voting ultimately
distorts the entire democratic process and question how accessible the American
Dream really is. For example, provisions like felony disenfranchisement, photo
identification laws, early voting day provision laws, and extensive
registration processes prevent citizens from voting.

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Felony disenfranchisement has been
an ongoing problem in states like Florida, Kentucky, and Iowa. The
disenfranchisement of felons has a history that is aligned with the old English
practice of revoking a convicted felon’s estate before being killed. Felon
disenfranchisement states that those who have been convicted of a felony,
whether minor or severe, are banned from voting for life. Felons can pay their
penance to society but are somehow still forever prevented from voting. The
United States put this into practice with the Southern states during the Jim
Crow Era. It was paired with poll taxes, literacy exams, and other variations designed
to deter African-Americans from reaching the polls. The number of convicted
felons amongst the minority communities have increased since the 1970’s, making
felony disenfranchisement a continuing concern for voter rights.  How does the United States of America expect
to develop into a more cohesive and inclusive society if they are constantly
reminding and alienating those that have made mistakes in the past. Of the 5
million Americans that are no longer allowed to vote because they are considered
convicted felons, about more than three-quarters of them are no longer
incarcerated. Those millions of individuals are still denied one of the most
fundamental/basic parts of being an American citizen even after serving their
sentences. The power for these historically marginalized groups to make
electoral changes in the United States is ultimately relinquished by taking away
their basic right to vote, and disregarding their voice in the administration
of justice.

In 2010, a set of new voting laws
were made to counteract voter fraud. Unfortunately, it made it more difficult
for citizens to cast votes and have those votes be counted. Those who sought to
discriminate were fueled by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. The
Supreme Court questioned whether or not the extraordinary measures in which the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, still applied in modern times. They
acknowledged voter discrimination, but that they were not sure if the
circumstances satisfied the Act’s constitutional requirements. Thus, this
struck down a foundational component to the Voting Rights Act. In more modern
times, it is clear that voter discrimination and suppression has been justified
with objectives like fighting voter fraud and essentially protecting election
integrity. This set of laws had the heaviest impact on voters of language
minorities, color, and voters with disabilities. Although these laws were
passed in order to counter voter fraud, it affects voter turnout. Voter turnout
rates are skewed due to factors like income, education, and race. North
Carolina increased registration requirements and reduced the opportunities to
register and vote. Counties across the state eliminated Sunday voting,
therefore, not allowing African-Americans to vote on the Sunday before Election

Voter Suppression forms this
imbalance between the citizens who are dependent on the government and the
citizens who make campaign contributions; the former has their concerns
neglected, whereas the latter are always heard. Thus, highlighting a
detrimental flaw in our democracy and the process for decision making. So now
we must focus on how to fix the issue at hand. To begin, we must utilize the
remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act to defend every citizen’s access to
casting their votes. Congress should also make an attempt to restore or amend
the Voting Rights Act to make sure that it does not neglect any one
African-American’s right to vote. It is also extremely important for those who
are passionate about the effects that voter suppression has given, to continue
fighting to eradicate voter suppression once and for all.

As previously stated, the right to
vote is granted to us as American citizens. Why is it that American citizens
across the country are deliberately not allowed to participate in the process
of creating a change in society? It is not just to deny citizens one of their
basic civi rights because of the mistakes they made in their past, the color of
their skin, the place they are from, or their economic status. In order for the
United States to become a more inclusive country, they must stop treating its
citizens differently from one another. The United States is known for being a
melting pot, founded by immigrants, but some three hundred years later, the
laws still inexplicably work to make many feel marginalized. 

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