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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Goodman Foundation’

UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture Addresses Voter Suppression

Posted on: November 11th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this post, Andrew Goodman Foundation Team Leader Jenna Santacroce recaps recent events offered this fall through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture addressing voter suppression and voting rights.

The 2020 Presidential election is one of the most monumental in history. The country, so clearly divided and polarized, is experiencing extreme pushback on both ends of the political spectrum. The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture (CSSC) hosted three virtual events which discussed the ways in which some American citizens cast their ballots without issue, while others are severely affected by “voter suppression.” Voter suppression is any effort to influence the outcome of an election by preventing eligible voters from registering to vote or casting their ballot. Voter suppression, which looks much different now than it does in history, is disguised as an attempt to mitigate “voter fraud,” or illegal interference with the election process by voter impersonation, duplicate voting, ineligible and false registrations, and more. Studies have proven voter fraud to be a rare occurrence, however, by claiming to prevent voter fraud, political leaders are able to establish standards and implement policies that prevent certain individuals from voting. The most affected group of individuals who face voter suppression are people of color. The elderly, students, and people with disabilities are also affected by voter suppression. 

Historian Carol Anderson, alongside other historian colleagues, discussed the history of voter suppression during the Speaker Sessions and Roundtable Discussions hosted by CSSC. They shared that while some groups are affected more than others, voter suppression at large does not follow one specific mode and does not have one specific target. Historically, voter suppression has included outright violence and aggression as well as systematic suppression through government policies. Often, these policies target the most vulnerable (such as the elderly and people with disabilities), or groups that have faced long standing social and political suppression, notably communities of color. Starting after the Reconstruction, southern states began to implicate policies to repress votes, justifying these policies were reasonable for protecting the election. Poll taxes and literacy tests were deemed necessary to fund elections and to provide for an educated electorate, however these laws intentionally overlooked the long standing effects of slavey and poverty, charging disproportionate amounts and ignoring the underfunding of African American schools throughout the south. 

Discriminatory policies escape scrutiny by appearing “universal,” ignoring how one policy will affect groups differently. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 helped to alleviate barriers to voting, especially in the south, by outlawing poll taxes and literacy tests and by monitoring areas known for voter suppression. However, voter suppression continues due to government loopholes and denial of responsibility. Voter suppression today takes on a familiar but different form.

The historians in these CSSC events explained how to identify voter suppression today as it is less blatant and much more covert. Limited access to polling locations is one of the most prominent modern tactics of voter suppression. In Georgia specifically, where CSSC speaker Carol Anderson is from, there are exceptionally long lines at voting stations. This year, the state of Georgia purchased new voting machines despite being advised not to by election officials. The machines were inefficient and created a lengthy voting process by requiring the voter to insert a piece of paper, taking the time to process the paper, then processing the citizens’ votes. Also, these new voting machines were large and only a limited amount were able to fit in voting locations, therefore, only a limited number of people were able to vote at once. The state of Georgia knowingly established a voting system that required voters to wait for hours in lines. People may leave these long lines and tell their friends, family, and communities, inadvertently discouraging them to vote. Carol Ansderson explains these long lines are not accidents and have happened repeatedly in history. These long lines are designed tactics of voter suppression.

New voter identification laws are a heavily debated form of voter suppression. Following the Supreme Court case of Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013, areas with a history of voter suppression are no longer required to receive federal approval for policy changes related to voter eligibility. Similar to using the justification of “universal application” from past policies, voter ID laws are subjective because they can often prioritize access to one type of ID over another, and do not take into account how difficult it may be to receive an identification card due to cost, time, or geographical location. Texas, for example, has allowed the use of firearm registration cards as acceptable voter ID, but has not allowed student ID. This is especially perilous in large states, where citizens may not have easy access to locations to receive adequate identification. The repeal of sections of the Voting Rights Act also led to voter roll purges across the country. Voter roll purges disproportionately target new voters and people of color, by targeting those without a history of repeated voting or by matching voter registration across states by name only, not incorporating any other identifying information. These voter roll purges also removed names if the information did not exactly match information in a state record book, so registrations with minor misspellings or different uses of hyphens were removed.

There is no clear path to remove discriminatory voting laws or practices. There have been calls to create an amendment to the Constitution that guarantees universal suffrage, however one has not been passed yet. The best thing we can do to eliminate voter fraud is to learn about voting rights, and to report states and voting sites that violate these rights. Grassroots organizations and civil rights groups continue to advocate for increased access to voting. The speakers at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture discussions are hopeful that with enough public pressure, we can work towards ensuring everyone has equal access to voting.


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Voter Intimidation and Your Right to Vote

Posted on: October 29th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this blog post, Andrew Goodman Foundation Fellow Caroline Leonard shares important information about voter intimidation and your right to vote on Election Day. 

Voter Intimidation and Your Right to Vote

Voter intimidation is illegal in all 50 states. This means that you can not be coerced, threatened, or otherwise swayed to vote a specific way at the polling site. Additionally, many states do not allow campaigning for specific candidates within a certain distance of polling locations. The following information applies directly to Mississippi elections, but information about voter intimidation and armed militias for different states can be found at: Georgetown Law: Protection Against Voter Intimidation and  Georgetown Law: State Fact Sheets. If you want more information, look for the website for your local or state election office.

What voter intimidation can look like:

Voter intimidation is using threats and other intimidation tactics to alter how people will vote or to dissuade or prevent them from voting. Voter intimidation included spreading false information about voting requirements, using verbal threats, inciting or threatening to incite violence, recording information about voters and following them in the polling location, or blocking people from entering the polling location. Additionally, any sort of unauthorized militia is illegal. If you are confronted by an organized group holding weapons, threatening violence, or attempting to act as a militia, contact the authorities.

Furthermore, campaigning, displaying the slogans or likenesses of candidates, or otherwise trying to solicit votes is illegal within 150 feet of a polling location unless it is on private property. Poll watchers may be appointed by individual candidates or political parties to monitor polling sites, however they cannot interact with voters, handle any ballot, or assist in voting. Candidates for office, their immediate relatives, and employers also cannot assist someone directly with voting. These would also be forms of voter intimidation or coercion.

What to do if you feel unsafe:

If you experience voter intimidation there are different steps you can take. If there is immediate danger, call 911. If there is no present danger, notify a poll worker at the polling location, and if they are unable to help you can contact a poll watcher, the circuit clerk for your county, or you can contact the Secretary of State’s office if poll workers or watchers appear biased. Report what happened, when, where, and if there were other voters deterred from voting. If you encounter an armed group, try to take note of any insignias or flags they have, if they are operating in an organized or patrolling way, if they have weapons and what kind, and if they are interacting with voters. However, safety is the top priority. Do not approach the armed group to try and get more information.

There are multiple national election hotlines to call to report cases of voter intimidation, and for general help on the election day:

For English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

For Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)

For Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

For Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) 

For a Video Call in American Sign Language:  301-818-VOTE (301-818-8683)

Mississippi Secretary of State’s Election Hotline: 800-829-6786

If you believe your rights have been violated, you can also contact:

The ACLU: 601-354-3408 or letmevote@aclu.org

The US Department of Justice Voting Rights Section: 800-253-3931

 

Your Right to Vote:

You have a right to vote in the county you are registered in free from harassment or coercion. You are entitled to assistance in voting if needed. Additionally, there are a few alternative ballots you may encounter in addition to the standard ballot. These include:

  • Affidavit Ballot: If you do not have a photo ID with you on election day, the poll worker rules your ID to not resemble you closely enough, if you are not listed in the pollbook, or if you have changed addresses (still within the same county) but did not change your listed residence before the election, you can vote via affidavit ballot. If you vote with an affidavit ballot, you will have to go to the circuit clerk’s office within 5 days of the election to show valid ID. You should be given written instruction on how to check if your ballot was counted when you vote.
  • Curbside Ballot: If you are unable to enter the polling location but you are still able to drive to the location on election day, you are entitled to curbside voting. After presenting your photo ID, you will be provided with a paper ballot or a way to electronically cast your ballot from your car. For the 2020 election, you are entitled to curbside voting if you have symptoms of Covid-19.
  • Emergency Ballot: If there is a power outage or if electronic voting methods are otherwise rendered unavailable, voting should continue as normal. Follow the instructions of the poll workers.
  • Spoiled Ballot: If you mismark a paper ballot you are entitled to ask for a new one. Additionally, if your electronic ballot malfunctions, you can ask for assistance or a substitute ballot.
  • Challenged Ballot: On election day, your ability to vote may be challenged. If your voter eligibility is challenged, you still have the right to cast a ballot. In the event of a challenged ballot, a poll worker will pull you and the challenger aside to ask questions about voter eligibility. If the poll workers unanimously decide you are eligible to vote, you can cast a regular ballot. If they unanimously rule you are ineligible to vote, you can still cast a ballot but it will be instantly rejected. If they cannot reach a decision, you will fill out a challenged ballot, and they will decide its validity later on.

 


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Serving at the Polls

Posted on: October 29th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this post, Andrew Goodman Foundation Fellow Jenna Santacroce shares several opportunities for students to serve at the polls.

There are more ways to get involved in the upcoming election aside from casting your vote. The Andrew Goodman Foundation Ole Miss Voting Ambassador Team encourages you to consider becoming a poll worker or a poll watcher!

Serving as a Nonpartisan Poll Watcher

If you are a student that wants to contribute to the election but are unable to work the polls in your home county or are not a Mississippi resident, you can participate by becoming a poll watcher.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is recruiting nonpartisan poll watchers to report activity that can threaten or intimidate voters and report barriers that limit accessibility to polling stations. Poll watchers can work in any county, but like poll workers, must receive training first. The final training date is Thursday, October 29th. Afterwards, LDF will be in touch with you about poll station assignments and further instructions about Election Day. 

Registration Link

Sign Up to Be an Official Poll Worker

Mississippi’s Secretary of State, Secretary Michael Watson, is seeking the help of Ole Miss students to COVID-19 has inundated our lives with uncertainty since its emergence nearly one full year ago. Secretary Watson and other Mississippi state officials are determined to prevent the virus from affecting these next four years by ensuring a safe and secure 2020 Presidential election. The state of Mississippi is seeking to hire student poll workers to help keep the election process efficient and to maintain the integrity of our democracy.

Student poll workers may be tasked with a variety of responsibilities. As a student poll worker, some jobs you may be asked to assist with include setting up before the polls open, checking in and assisting voters, cleaning polling stations in between voters, or helping close the polls once they close. 

Mississippi student poll workers must be at least eighteen years of age and a resident of Mississippi. Also, in order to work the polls, you must be a registered voter in the county you will work in on election day. It is a full day commitment and you are required to remain at the polling location for the entire time the polls are open.

To apply, you can complete a short application form found on Mississippi’s Poll Worker Portal. Completing your application does not guarantee that you will be hired, nor does it commit you to participate if you decide not to. By completing your application, your request to participate will be sent to your County Circuit Clerk and Election Commission. If your help is needed, these local election commissioners will contact you directly. If you are selected to become a student poll worker, you will be prompted to complete the required training before you serve on election day. 

MS Secretary of State Poll Worker Portal

Other Opportunities

Here are several other opportunities:

  • UM Campus Shuttles – We need volunteers to assist with shuttle service and check-in on Election Day. Sign up here to volunteer.
  • Contact your local county clerk office and offer help. Local election commissioners may need assistance with setting up the polling locations or delivering personal protective equipment.  

The 2020 Presidential election is one of the most anticipated elections yet. It is increasingly important, especially during the time of this pandemic, for this Presidential election to be safe, secure, and accurate as it will influence our lives for the next four years. Contribute to the 2020 Presidential election by doing more than just casting your ballot – apply to be a student poll worker or watcher! 

For more information about county contacts, voter registration, and voter information, visit the Mississippi Secretary of State’s site, Y’all Vote. To stay up-to-date on Mississippi’s latest election initiatives, follow Mississippi’s Chief Elections Officer Secretary Michael Watson on Facebook and Twitter


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