What does Voter Suppression look like (and what to do about it)…

Arm going through a maze to cast ballot.

Introduction

2020 was my first year as a poll worker in Arkansas. I wanted a better understanding of the process and also, during COVID, I knew they would be shorthanded. I had also heard about voter suppression and I wanted to see with my own eyes if it was even possible.

Overview and Process

In my experience, I found voter suppression, at least in Arkansas, is more challenging once a voter walks through the door. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly more challenging. Something people like Stacey Abrams and Andrea Miller have told us for years.

Observations

On my first day of training I came in and found there were several older white individuals, and two people of color. What I found interesting is I didn’t see either of the people of color while I was working the polls. They may have been there on days I wasn’t. I did see one Black female working at the polling station, but she wasn’t in my training session. I noted the lack of representation at polling locations, which was a contrast to other states I have voted.

Suggested Solutions

My day job isn’t only to point out problems in efficiency, it is also to propose solutions to those problems. Voters can take action to protect themselves from being suppressed. We voters alone have the power to ensure our voter registration file:

  1. Address is correct and up-to-date
  2. Spelled our name correctly
  3. Has a matching ID (where required — your local party should be willing to help with this, or at least give you resources to help)

Value your Right to Vote

It’s not enough to tell people to vote. We also need to treat our ability to vote like it is insurance. You may not need it and you may not ever want to use it, but when you do decide to, it’s critical you have it. If we treat voting like it’s insurance, we should mark our calendar so every year we make sure our voter registration is up to date and active. Make it part of your Independence Day celebration!

Participate in all Elections

Be an active participant in each and every election when possible, even the smaller elections. Flex your voting muscle! The issues on the ballot affect you, and the lives of those around you.

Check your Voter Registration Information

Make sure your valid ID and your registration match. If you are in a state where you have to have an ID to vote, ensure your ID matches your address. If you move, make sure the DMV is the place where you update your voter registration address. If it’s not, find out how to update your address. Go to Vote.gov, select your state and follow the instructions. Fill out any required forms and physically take them to your County Clerk’s office (rather than send them in).

Check the Voting Laws

Voting laws are specific to each state.

Scripts for Poll Workers (at the voting machines)

For polling places, it would be great to develop and have a script for poll workers to reference (that is agreed upon by all party representatives) to help voters at the polling place. Go over it during training. Poll workers should be instructed to not deviate from the script. Have the script visible if possible (perhaps posted on the side of the voting booths or on the walls behind them). That would have also stopped a poll worker from looking at the voters’ machines while they were voting.

Instructions to Help Voters

Develop and post educational material (approved by all parties) on the walls, or in the voting booths for the users. If voters had the ability to educate themselves on how to work the machines, we might have avoided some of the issues that occurred.

Checklists for Poll Workers to Follow (checking in voters)

I’m a programmer, so I think a lot about flowcharts and how the computer processes information. Along these lines, I think it would have been very helpful if the poll workers checking in the voters had had a checklist of solutions and options for what to do in various situations.

Be a Poll Worker!

Be a poll worker at least once in your life! Do it when you are young. Hopefully, it will be so rewarding, you’ll continue. Do it for the smaller elections if you can, and also the larger elections.

Data Strategist at Data and Dots Analytics, Inc - Closet organizer of data. Loves nature, cats, video games and LEGO building.