Voting is an essential part of democracy. As an American citizen over the age of 18, I got the chance to vote in my country for the first time in the mid term elections. Being able to do this and finally participate in the democracy of my own country led me to think about power and how it differs person to person, especially in the US.
Something I consider the US to be proud of is the aspect of freedom that shapes everyday life. This freedom is reflected in the ability to vote. However, it is important to consider the aspects of some individuals lives that allow them to vote more easily than others, showing that freedom is not simply something granted to every American but varies person to person. Some of the factors that influence this include race or socioeconomic levels. The varying levels of freedom granted to people depending on their personal identity lead me to an important question and power and democracy in the world of ethics.
In North Dakota, there is a law that voters can’t vote from a PO box. This means that each individual voting must have an address. Native americans living in reservations in North Dakota do not all have addresses. Although their IDs are accepted at some polling places (they were in the primary election), they were not valid for the general election that took place in November (Many Natives…). This law is an example of a situation where a whole ethnicity are disadvantaged in their ability to contribute to democracy through voting, showing an imbalance of power.
One of the qualifications in order to vote in the US is that the individual can not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction. There are currently three states that don’t let people with a felony conviction vote even after their sentence is completed (Hanks, Angela). This might seem like a reasonable law at first but when combined with systematic racism can lead to unfair disadvantages. Systemic racism is prevalent in the criminal justice system. While many people of color face structural barriers in regards to housing, healthcare, employment and education, these issues go on to influence daily life. As the structure of America favors white people, people of color are more likely to fall below the poverty line, individuals are more likely to get caught up in crime because of lack of options. Not only is the justice system more likely to convict people of color, but they are more likely to get blamed for issues that they had little to nothing to do with. Because of this, the law that keeps felons from voting has disadvantaged many people of color, especially black individuals in America.
If any one community is being prevented a vote because of a reason like ethnicity or race, the very system of government is being undermined and democracy as we expect to know it is not taking place.
As a white woman, I can recognize the privilege I am granted for reasons beyond my control. It is important for me to be aware of the difference in power and freedom of the people around me and all around the world and to understand the chances I might have in my life for reasons I had no say in.
Hanks, Angela, et al. “Systematic Inequality.” Center for American Progress, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2018/02/21/447051/systematic-inequality/. Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
Lopez, German. “The Right to Vote Is under Siege in 2018.” Vox, 6 Nov. 2018, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/11/6/18065970/midterm-elections-voting-rights-suppression-2018.
“Many Native IDs Won’t Be Accepted At North Dakota Polling Places.” NPR.Org, https://www.npr.org/2018/10/13/657125819/many-native-ids-wont-be-accepted-at-north-dakota-polling-places. Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.