By: Austin Laufersweiler, Press Secretary
With a new year comes new opportunities for lawmakers to attempt to roll back voting rights. In such an important election year, we all need to keep a watchful eye to ensure legislators don’t use their power to make it harder for eligible Americans to vote.
Step one: Identify bad actors
Sweeping changes to how people vote happen at the state level. Make sure you’re familiar with your state legislators and election officials and whether they have pushed any voter suppression measures during their career.
Our Voter Suppression Hall of Shame is a great resource for keeping track of who’s carrying out attacks on your voting rights.
If you live in Arizona, for example, Representative Bob Thorpe is attempting to prevent college students from voting. He has claimed that they “unfairly influence” elections, so watch out for measures from Thorpe aimed at restricting students’ ability to vote.
New Hampshire faces a similar threat from State Senators Regina Birdsell and James Gray. Together, they have introduced legislation requiring that voters register as full legal residents, including paying car registration fees and changing their drivers’ licenses. This places an undue burden on New Hampshire residents like college students and military personnel who recently moved to the state, who would thereby need to pay to vote in New Hampshire. That’s a poll tax.
In Nebraska, you may not always follow state treasurer elections, but next year would be a good time to do so. State Senator John Murante is looking to institute a voter ID law, which would be a major blow to equal voting accessibility in the state, and now he wants a promotion and is running for Nebraska State Treasurer.
Step two: Hold them accountable
If you find an election official pushing voter suppression measure, let them know you’re watching — and that you oppose them. Don’t let them get comfortable thinking that no one’s paying attention, or that no one will fight back.
We created a comprehensive guide for stopping voter suppression — and you can use it to find tactics for holding politicians accountable.
While they’re in office, keep the pressure on by staying in touch and giving feedback. Make calls to their official office, write letters to the editor and start a local LAV chapter so you can get the community involved in standing up for voting rights.
Once these politicians are up for reelection, make it harder for them to keep their seat. Take an active role in challenging them by signing up to volunteer for their opponents, spreading the word in your community about why they don’t have your support, and even running for a position yourself.
Step three: Know the landscape
The best way to combat voter suppression issues as they arise is to get to know the electoral landscape in your city, county and state. Familiarize yourself with your local election officials, who may be themselves elected or appointed, depending on where you live.
You may have one or more of the following: County Clerk, County Auditor, Board of Elections, Supervisor of Elections, and/or a County Election Director. Because elections are run on a local level, there may not be many formal opportunities for the public to engage, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting to know them and expressing your concerns directly. These are the people who will be making decisions about polling place locations and equipment, staffing elections, and overseeing voter rolls and funding.
At a higher level, it’s important to get to know your Secretary of State and State Legislators as much as possible. In most states, Secretaries of State also serve as Chief Election Officials, and oversee voter registration. Along with State Legislators, they have the power to pass the overarching rules affecting voting rights.
Together, with your action and attention on the ground, we will hold politicians accountable when they make it harder for eligible Americans to vote.
The Recipe for Protecting Voting Rights in 2018 was originally published in Let America Vote on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.