A World Free of Voter Suppression
On Monday, Advancement Project National Office, in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, released a new report, We Vote We Count: The Need for Congressional Action to Secure the Right to Vote for All Citizens. The report details accounts of voter suppression and makes recommendations of how communities of color combat these measures.
This fall, Chioma Onwumelu, Georgetown University student and Advancement Project’s Communications Intern, had the chance to sit down with Gilda Daniels, Advancement Project’s Litigation Director. Listen as Daniels, the report’s primary author, discusses what a world free from voter suppression could look like. Hear the full 15-minute interview and read the transcript excerpt below.
Chioma Onwumelu: Imagine a world free from voter suppression and restrictive voting practices. What does that vision of free and safe look like to you?
Gilda Daniels: Free and safe looks to me like a place [where] there are very few restrictions on the right to vote. Certainly, there is interest in elections other than the presidential election. There is interest at the local level for school boards, county councilmen [elections]. Those are the people that you’re interacting and interfacing with on a more regular basis, than the President of the United States. I think it’s very important to have people involved in that area. And that people actually run for office. That we get involved in our representation in our own communities.
CO: Do you think there is enough political education surrounding voter suppression and voting rights in general?
GD: I don’t think so, I think voter suppression has essentially become one of those words that we hear but we don’t dissect to really understand what it means. When we say voter suppression, we’re essentially looking at devices and mechanisms that prohibit or diminish the opportunity to access the ballot; those come in many forms. So the education comes in understanding what forms voter suppression can take. Probably more importantly, people understanding how they can access their right to vote. Understanding where they can register and making sure that once they register that they get a confirmation from the registrar saying, “this is your polling place, these are your election districts” etc. Knowing what you need to take to the voting booth; do you need an ID in your state? So I don’t think we’ve talked enough about what the process is. We’ve seen that there are barriers to access but I think we could do a much better job of educating people on how to overcome those barriers.
CO: What can people be doing in terms of advocacy for people who are affected by voter suppression?
GD: We have a three-pronged approach: Educate. Legislate. Litigate. When I’m out speaking to organizations and groups, I try to leave them with those three things. Educate yourself about your voting and registration process in your locality. When’s the last day to register? How do you register? Where can you register? When is Election Day? What office is up for election? Who are these candidates and how can they represent you? Attend meetings and educate yourself not only about the process but about the candidates as well. And once you actually cast a ballot the process doesn’t end; it’s essentially just beginning. Because then you have people in place and you can petition to get them to legislate in a way that is meaningful to your community. Something that we do here at Advancement Project is work with groups on the ground, not only in the litigation process but also in the legislative and policy process. Find out what kinds of laws you would like to see in your community. Let’s draft policy reports and draft legislation that we can present to legislators for their consideration. Really educating ourselves about the process, then legislating. And if legislation doesn’t work, using litigation as a tool to try to create this environment where all people have access to the right to vote.
CO: Awesome, well this was a wealth of information and I thank you so much Gilda for talking to me today.
GD: Thank you Chioma.
Chioma Onwumelu is a Communications Intern at Advancement Project National Office.