Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) discusses how new discriminatory voting laws have suppressed many poor and minority Americans’ access to the polls during this week’s installment of the Congressional Black Caucus Message To America.
According to Rep. Ellison, voter participation was at its lowest level since the second world war. Ellison attributes this phenomenon to the “Supreme Court’s decision to dismantle the Voting Rights Act” and state legislatures passing laws requiring voter IDs.
Ellison stated new laws in North Carolina ended same-day voter registration and reduced early voting. In Arizona, “People [were] made to wait until midnight to vote because of the lack of funding.”
Rep. Ellison cited voter ID laws, lack of funding, and citizens’ ignorance about the new laws as reasons that “kept thousands from voting” during the Wisconsin primaries.
“Before the Voting Rights Act was gutted, some of these states would have been forced to have their new voting laws reviewed by the Department of Justice because of their history of discrimination — something called pre-clearance, but not anymore,” said Ellison.
He continued, “The decision to throw out section five of the Voting Rights Act combined with the new voter ID laws are barriers to participation for Americans who already don’t have a seat at the table.”
According to Ellison, income inequality also plays a major role in voter turnout. He told viewers, “People that make $150,000 a year vote in the 80 percent level and people who make $50,000 or lower — let’s just say they vote a whole lot less.”
Rep. Ellison called this discrepancy in voting levels the “voting gap.” He said, “The difference between higher income people and lower-income people and their voting participation” can be attributed to this occurrence.
“If you got three jobs making $7.25 an hour, you may not have enough time to get to the polls, whereas if you have a job that pays a lot, you may have more discretionary time, you may be able to plan your day, you might be able to take time off to actually go vote and there are also a number of other reasons that explain the voting gap,” said Ellison.
“The voting gap is real.”
Ellison proposed “the best way to create meaningful change is to close the voting gap.” He explained when the so-called voting gap is lower, “policies are more equitable.”
Representative Ellison highlighted another study that found “states with [a] lower voting gap have [a] higher minimum wage, stricter lending laws, and more generous health benefits than states with a high voting gap between rich and poor.”
Congressman Ellison wrapped his address, saying, “Voting is the quickest way to bring about real change.” He continued, “To do that, we must restore the Voting Rights Act. We must vote and we have to make voting a whole lot easier – not harder.”
For more information about the Congressional Black Caucus, visit cbc-butterfield.house.gov.