Voter Suppression: A Real Issue We Should All Care About

Katherine Merisotis, Photographer

Seventy-three million Americans witnessed the disgraceful presidential debate that sent waves of frustration through Americans’ heads due to distrust of the United States democratic system. Every presidential election year there are a series of debates between the two nominees; the presidential debate that occurred on Sept.  29, 2020 was between Democratic nominee and former Vice President, Joe Biden and Repbulican nominee and the President of the United States, Donald Trump. 

Every national news source was unanimous in describing the debate as uninformative for the American public, on account of the constant interruption by the Republican nominee. The moderator’s debate topics and questions seemed more like suggestions due to the abundance of unanswered questions and misinformation, mainly supplied by the Republican nominee. However, the debate was informative in the confirmation of Trump’s inability to condemn racism. Trump poorly reacted to the moderators request to condemn white supremacists and advocated for the Proud Boys, a far-right group with “a history of violent confrontations” to “stand back and stand by.”

The overall distrust the President of the United States injected in our democracy was despicable and contributes to the voting suppression of thousands of Americans for the 2020 presidential election. Trump had two strategies in this debate based on attacking our democracy, including emphasizing the virtually non-existent voter fraud within the United States voting system which leads him to already distrust the outcome. He is consequently sparking fear within the American people, because he will not commit to leave power peacefully. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mail-in voting numbers will soar. Trump reiterated sentiments from his past interviews, saying, “This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen. I hope it’s going to be a fair election. If it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.” The Federal Bureau of Investigations has found no legitimate election fraud has occurred to a substantial effect during this current election as well as in years past. 

During this segment about the election outcomes, Biden emphasized that, whether he wins or loses in the final tally of all of the ballots, he will respect the decision. However, Trump is on record indicating that he will not accept a defeat, because that would have meant illegal activity will have overtaken the ballots. The fear that Americans now have of the election not being legitimate is the major problem within the United States because it discourages voters from showing up to vote. It also becomes a security threat, because international interference can occur when there is distrust from domestic voters. 

Trump has not only promoted distrust for the electoral process, but also has created fear for many democratic voters because he has ordered his base to keep a close eye on the polls. During the debate Trump warned his base to watch for nonexistent fraud by saying, “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen.” These so-called “poll watchers” are legal until they impede voters from voting, then that is illegal. However, they often increase the chance of voter suppression because voters feel threatened for practicing their right to vote. 

Although Biden tried to calm the nerves of millions of voters in the United States by reiterating that “This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate. Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote.” While this may have put some Americans’ minds at ease, Trump’s threats should not be taken lightly by election and government officials. The integrity of this election is being questioned by our president. When a sitting president casts doubt on the legitimacy of an election, he is parroting the tactics of authoritarians around the world. 

Now, I want to shift focus on what the current climate of the presidential election means for Bates students regarding their right to vote and how they can make sure they are able to vote on Nov. 3. Maine law indicates that any college student above the age of eighteen who attends college or university within the state of Maine has the right to choose to vote in Maine or in their respective home state. While Maine is a primarily blue state, the young voter turnout which is majority Democatic leaning is vastly important within the state because their vote has a deep impact on the outcomes of the election. 

Regarding the Nov. 3 election that will take place in twenty eight days, there are many different options for Bates students who are voting in Maine. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 13, and Maine college students must re-register every year if they have moved dorms since the previous year. Groups on campus such as the Harward Center and Bates Votes have been instrumental in this process by leaving voter registration cards for students to fill out at their convenience and submit them to the Lewiston city registrars. 

There are many options available for Bates students choosing to vote in Maine whether that be voting by mail, early voting, or voting on election day. For students choosing to vote by mail the deadline to request an absentee ballot is by Oct. 29. There are also options for students to vote early that involve voting at the Lewiston Municipal Clerk’s office between Oct.  5-30. This is an important option for Bates students in the event that we are sent home due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Students would be able to go to the Clerk’s office and cast their ballots before departing to their respective homes. There is also always the option of voting in person on election day, which is Nov 3. 

This presidential election is important not only for the future of our country, but it is also Bates students’ only presidential vote in their four years at Bates. For many students,  this is their first presidential election, and maybe even their first time voting. Bates students’ votes can make a significant impact, not only in Lewiston, but also in Maine. In this upcoming election, there are important policies that will affect our generation such as climate change, Roe vs. Wade, and others. Remember to vote on Nov. 3, the future of our country is at stake!