The United States of America has a democracy, which means that the American people elect government officials. Is this really true? Even though every citizen has the right to vote according to the United States Constitution, not every citizen is extended that right to vote. There are laws in place to stop individuals from participating in elections. If individuals are not allowed to vote, then is it really the American people who elect our president? Or is it a certain group that votes and elects the president?
In 2008, the number of African-American voters who voted in a presidential election increased tremendously. While this meant that more individuals were turning out to vote, there were consequences to an increase in this voting block.
According to political science researcher Wendy Weiser, the higher the increase of minority and lowincome voter turnout a state had, the more likely the state was to pass legislation that diminished voting rights. In her article, “Voter Suppression: How Bad? Not Since The 19Th Century Has Government Suppressed Rather Than Enlarged The Right To Vote,” Weiser reports that seven of the 11 states with the highest turnout of African- American voters in 2008 passed legislation to make voting harder for citizens in that state. Examples of voter suppression laws include requiring individuals to present proof of citizenship when they register to vote or requiring a photo ID in a place where it may be difficult to obtain a government ID card. Requiring an ID is supposed to stop voter fraud, but Edwin Rios claims in his article, “Block the Vote,” that of the 1 million ballots cast in elections from 2000 to 2014, there were only 31 documented instances of voter fraud.
Inmates are also being denied the right to vote. According to Jonah Siegel, 35 states do not allow inmates to regain their voting rights when released from prison. In his article, “Felon Disenfranchisement And The Fight For Universal Suffrage,” Siegel claims the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates among developed countries. This means that millions of individuals are being denied their constitutional right to vote and most of these inmates are African-American and low-income.
If released convicts and other American citizens are being disenfranchised, then who votes in the elections? In Sean Elwee’s article, “Why the Voting Gap Matters?” Elwee reports that in 2010, 61.6 percent of citizens who made above $150,000 voted, while only 49 percent of the American citizens who made below $10,000 voted. This is because the rich are not targeted by voter suppression laws and generally do not become inmates, so they are free to vote.
If fewer African- Americans and low-income citizens are voting, the results are not representative of the entire population. They do not represent the individuals who cannot vote because of voter suppression laws or who have been inmates. When more of the upper class votes, then the elected person is more reflective of that class. The wishes and preferences of the low-income and African-Americans are not taken into account. It is the rich, or the wealthiest one percent, that vote for the president, not the American people.
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