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Early voting smashes turnout records, but there are signs of voter suppression

Early voting smashes turnout records, but there are signs of voter suppression

Joe Biden's campaign team have been clear to push the message "vote and vote early", with there being clear attempts by President Donald Trump to try and undermine the legitimacy of postal voting and removing polling stations to make it harder for voters in mostly Democratic areas to cast their ballot.

It has been clear that Joe Biden's message is working, with young voters in particular, casting early votes in far greater numbers than in 2016, particularly in the vital swing states of Florida and the mid-western 'rust belt' states.

 

These record numbers have also seen videos all over social media showing lines snaking for block after block, with socially distanced voters itching to make their voice heard.

Yet, attempts of voter suppression are clear from the lines. Mostly black voters, in mid-western cities and typically in states that are going to be crucial on 3rd November, in lines stretching for hundreds of meters might be indicative of an enthusiasm to 'dump Trump', but is symptomatic of the systematic attempt by the Trump campaign to disenfranchise minority, mostly African American, voters.

Back in June, Donald Trump appointed Louis DeJoy - a significant Republican donor - to be postmaster general (head of the US Postal Service) with the Trump supporter setting about to strip the United States Postal Service (USPS) of its resources and remove ballot drops in many Democratic-leaning districts in swing states.

This has made postal voting harder for many, in a Coronavirus afflicted election that was expected to make postal voting the norm, and instead, the Biden campaign has been encouraging people to cast their ballots in person, but to cast them early.

The lack of USPS resources and ballot drops are not the only reason behind the huge lines at early voting polling stations, but the removal of polling stations; particularly in Texas, which could become a swing state for the first time in 50 years.

Reports from many cities across the southern state have suggested that polling places are being taken away in cities with high minority populations (who tend to be more Democratic voters) making it harder for many people to cast a ballot. According to reports, more than 1200 polling places have been taken away across mostly southern states; most of these in areas with higher minority and particularly African American populations.

The lack of polling places has meant that some voters are queuing for hours just to cast their ballot, something that is only likely to be longer on election day.

Reports have also suggested that some polling places have fewer machines than is necessary, meaning that voters have to queue for longer in order to cast their ballot than they might have done in previous elections.

This also comes after polling last week suggested that some voters were being impacted by Trump's attempts to undermine the legitimacy of postal and proxy voting, through his frequent assertions that it might cause fraud (despite voting by post himself in the Republican primaries).

 

Whilst the numbers of people turning up to vote early is clearly a positive for American democracy, the long lines are not just indicative of an electorate more enthused than in 2016, but of voters who have fewer places to cast their ballot and have to wait longer to do so.

Only time will tell if these attempts at suppression will impact the result of the election, or whether the enthusiasm to cast a ballot, despite queueing for hours, will be enough to counteract this balance and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to make their vote count.

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