Historically, the term "voter restoration" has been associated with returning voting rights to individuals with felony convictions. Through the Voter Restoration Initiative, however, the Voter Engagement Coalition seeks to extend the term and to broaden the conversation.
Over the next eight weeks, we will acknowledge the histories and legacies of voter suppression within marginalized communities that discourage citizens from participating in the present-day voting process. We will highlight the challenges and resilience of communities across the country who are still not able to vote, even though they have the legal right to do so. Through community storytelling and dialogue, we hope to encourage important conversations that will ultimately raise the voices that our nation has historically silenced.
The Voter Restoration Initiative reflects the intersection of two of Illinois State's core values, civic engagement and diversity and inclusion, by acknowledging the sociohistorical legacy and present-day experiences of power and oppression within the American political voting system.
There are multiple factors at play within the Postal Service that are worrisome for the upcoming general election. The USPS is having mail delays, in part due to years of financial troubles and reforms implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. This is a concern for many voters because, due to COVID-19, there is an expectation that the United States will experience a surge in requests for mail-in ballots.
If you plan to vote by mail, make sure that your voice is heard by returning your ballot as early as possible, and definitely prior to the Nov. 3 deadline.
The largest voting population in the U.S. are the youth. They are also more educated and civically engaged than past generations. Young adults have the numbers and interest in voting, but voter turnout among this group has remained low. Voting needs to be more accessible, so that young voters have the opportunity to be engaged in our democracy.
Native Americans have the lowest voter turnout among all groups. Even though citizenship was finally granted to Native Americans in 1924, there is an ongoing fight to ensure Native American voting rights. This is especially true among those who live in tribal reservations, where they have unique factors that impact the ability to vote. The laws and policies implemented around voting make it substantially difficult for Native Americans to engage in the democratic process.
The Latinx community is fighting for their voices to be heard in our democracy. Actions such as changing poll locations, photo I.D. requirements, and the purging of voter rolls, are having negative impacts on Latinx citizens' ability to vote. However, groups such as Loto Latino are committed to empowering and educating Latinx voters. A simple way this is done is registering as many eligible Latinx voters as possible.
The aim of the War on Drugs is to stop the trade, distribution, and use of illegal drugs by increasing prison sentences for users and dealers. Black communities have been hit the hardest by the policies enacted from this campaign, even though White communities have had similar rates of illegal drug activity. This has contributed to the boom in our prison population, where Black people are disproportionately represented. This, in turn, has impacted the voting rights of numerous Black individuals. Decades later, this campaign continues to disenfranchise minorities, while there has been little to no reduction of illegal drug activity in the U.S.
Voter suppression is a tactic used to discourage voters from voting. While past tactics were overt, such as poll taxes or physical violence, voter suppression has evolved and continues to disproportionately impact people of color. Today's tactics, like strict voter I.D. laws limiting early voting, make it harder to exercise the right to vote.
It's been 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S. and it's important to acknowledge that racism ran rampant throughout this movement. Women of color were marginalized by white suffragists, who refused to acknowledge their concerns about race. Some suffragists even used white supremacy as a tool to further the cause for women's voting rights. Many women are still in the fight for women's voting rights.
Delta Sigma Theta was founded in 1913 at Howard University. It is a predominately Black sorority that is committed to the development of their members and public service, primarily around the Black community. The organization has a long history of activism, with their involvement in the women's suffrage parade being one of their first public acts. They believed in the importance of voting rights for Black women, and despite the great risk to their lives, they decided to participate in the march.