By David Swedelson, Senior Partner and Community Association Attorney at SwedelsonGottlieb
I first heard about voter suppression in law school, where I learned that the United States has a long tradition of threatening voter access. I thought it was a thing of the past. But I have been surprised by recent news stories that tell us that there are real efforts in 2020 to make it harder for some Americans to vote. For example, a Memphis, Tenn., poll worker turned away people wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts, saying they couldn’t vote. Robocalls warned thousands of Michigan residents that mail-in voting could put their personal information in the hands of debt collectors and police. In Georgia, officials cut polling places by nearly 10%, even as the number of voters surged by nearly 2 million.
Simply stated, voter and candidate suppression is a strategy used to influence an election’s outcome by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from running as a candidate in an election or voting. Unlike political campaigning, which attempts to change voting behavior through persuasion and organization, activating inactive voters, or registering new supporters; voter suppression attempts to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition. The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, physical intimidation, and even physical attacks on prospective voters, which is illegal.