As we wrap up voter registration for 2017, I’m reflecting on the extent of voter suppression in the US, and in Georgia specifically. On National Voter Registration Day, as part of our pledge to register and update the registration of 11,000 voters by October 11th, I joined other 9to5 canvassers at Woodruff Park to go out and collect registration cards. Standing outside a busy transit station, I encountered a number of people who were certain that they were already registered to vote. When asked how long ago they had updated their registration, however, they realized that it was likely that they had been purged.
According to the AJC, in July of 2017 over 500,000 Georgians were quietly purged from the voter rolls. These voters came from the “inactive” list, meaning they either had moved, hadn’t voted, or hadn’t updated their voter registration in the past three years, a timetable that lines up with the most recent major election cycle.
This recent purge is scary, but it proves how powerful our votes can be. It’s easy to get discouraged with electoral politics when changes in policy and representation seem to happen at a snail’s pace. Many of my close friends are opposed to voting, because they see it as an insufficient way of creating social change. But while voting certainly isn’t the only tool at our disposal, we need to make sure marginalized communities are able to participate in this process. When voter suppression is such a widespread problem in our country, and especially in our state, it’s clear that our votes do count. If they didn’t matter, why would anyone bother suppressing them?
Quaker Volunteer Service Fellow