The Debate over Voting Restrictions in America

31 October, 2018

Former United States President Jimmy Carter has travelled the world observing elections to find out if they are fair.

Carter also is a former Democratic governor in the American state of Georgia. Now he is turning attention to an election in his home state. He is asking Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, to resign from his current position as secretary of state.

As secretary of state, Kemp oversees the state's elections, including his own for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Carter wrote, "Popular confidence is threatened not only by the undeniable racial discrimination of the past...but also because you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate."

He added in a personal letter sent to Kemp, "I urge you to step aside and hand over to a neutral authority the responsibility of overseeing the governor's election."

Carter has offered his support to Abrams.

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams, left, speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta.
FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams, left, speaks as her Republican opponent Secretary of State Brian Kemp looks on during a debate in Atlanta.

In a recent debate with Abrams, Kemp said that local officials run the elections process. However, Kemp's critics have accused him of using his office to make it harder for minorities and other Democratic Party supporters to vote.

They said Kemp's office held up 53,000 voter registrations under the state's new law for registration by mail. Under the law, a misspelling or a difference between a family name and a married name can cause a registration to be rejected.

Kemp answered that he is carrying out state law. He also said those would-be voters could still vote if they present acceptable identification to clear up doubts. Kemp's Republican supporters accused Abrams and the Democrats of wanting to give voting rights to illegal immigrants in advertising seen around the state.

Voting restrictions in America

The state of Georgia is not the only American state with new laws that, critics say, make it harder for people to vote.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School says that 24 states passed voting measures after the 2010 election. The center studies issues including voting rights and campaign reform in America.

The group reported that 13 states have passed restrictive voter identification laws. Eleven states have laws that make it harder for citizens to register. Seven states have reduced early voting. And three states have passed laws making it harder to restore voting rights to people who have committed crimes.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to block a North Dakota law requiring voters to show identification with current street addresses. Activists argued that the law could prevent 19,000 Native Americans who live on reservations from voting because they often lack street addresses.

In Kansas, the American Civil Liberties Union is bringing legal action against local officials for moving the only voting place outside of Dodge City. The group says the move makes it harder for the city's Hispanic population to vote. The city also sent new voters, mainly Hispanics, the wrong address.

Kansas, along with Tennessee, Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, have also passed laws requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The laws are being considered by courts.

Voter fraud

Supporters of the voting restrictions say that these measures are necessary to prevent unlawful voting. And they say the new laws increase public trust in the electoral process.

In 2017, President Donald Trump created a commission to study the issue of unlawful voting. After the 2016 presidential election, Trump had said that millions of illegal ballots had been completed.

The commission, however, ended its work a year later without finding evidence of widespread illegal voting.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

confidence –n. a feeling of being certain that something will happen or that it is true

authority –n. people who have power to make decisions and enforce rules and laws

reservations –n. an area of land in the U.S. that is kept separate as a place for Native Americans to live