Voting is a right, but easily accessible voting is a privilege.
Almost half of United States citizens eligible to vote do not cast their ballots. The cruciality of this election heightens the importance of every vote, but dystopian-like obstacles impede on many individuals’ plans. Outrageously long lines as a result of fewer polling locations, various perils caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and voter intimidation are real in this election. If you have the privilege to vote, you must help.
Voters across Indiana are facing extremely long wait times at the polls. Voters have waited between two and seven hours in Marion County, and wait lines in Bloomington have formed as long as 60 people. There was only one location open for early voters in Monroe County.
Time constraints and long wait times exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Assuming shorter lines on Election Day due to alternate voting possibilities, such as early voting and voting by mail, is a grave mistake. Indiana’s policy of not permitting absentee voting for COVID-19 reasons forces voters to the polls. There is still controversy over whether voting by mail is a safe practice, as some voters are concerned about whether their votes will be counted or if their mail-in ballot will be received in time. And fear of spreading COVID-19 is also evident with long lines full of voters, as not all states are requiring voters to wear masks at polling stations.
Time is a luxury, not a guarantee for every individual. Various circumstances impede on a person’s free time, such as scheduled work shifts, family responsibilities or class times, which cannot always be altered to stand in line for multiple hours in order to vote. Additionally, certain areas are subject to longer lines. In 2016, voters in neighborhoods of color were 74% more likely to face waits of 30 minutes or more.
Those who have the time must aid those who do not. If you have voted, reach out to co-workers and volunteer to work shifts on Election Day. Volunteer to pick up neighborhood kids from school and to cook dinner for families that live nearby, giving the mother or father time to stand in line to vote. The votes of the working class and people of color are suppressed by time.
Voting locations are not accessible to all individuals. Transportation barriers provide a grueling obstacle. Racial minorities and lower-income Americans are often more likely to have their driver's license suspended. Failure to pay student loans and child support, as well as failure to go to school, can result in a license suspension.
Driving is a privilege, and transportation barriers are a form of voter suppression. It is imperative to use this privilege in ensuring a representative vote and outcome in this election.
Voter intimidation includes the use of threats, duress, outright violence or economic coercion to suppress or induce voting, but according to Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, “there’s some difference between what might make people uncomfortable and activity undertaken to keep people away.”
Voting intimidation is not always blatant, which necessitates providing support to those affected. President Donald Trump has called for his supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very closely.” With the ambiguity of this request, voters must plan accordingly. For those who are able, vote in groups to ensure safety. If you have already voted, accompany a frightened voter, as the long lines provide ample time for anxiety to build if voter intimidation is present in any form.
Polling stations opening on Nov. 3 are listed on the Monroe County Voters website, which provides addresses and the respective locations designated for specific precincts. Students who are registered at their campus address can cast their vote at the Indiana Memorial Union.
Volunteer to drive, help and calm voters to ensure this election is run in a purely democratic form. If you have the privilege, it is your responsibility to combat blatant voter suppression.
Russ Hensley (he/him) is a sophomore studying mathematics, political science and international law. He is a curator for TEDxIndianaUniversity, a member of IU Student Government and a member of the Hutton Honors College.