Voter Suppression and Inequality

When Melissa checked into this booth in Roanoke, VA to vote, she was denied on the spot. Source — Roanoke Times
Louisiana’s 2nd — Source: Washington Post

The Path Forward

The best solutions are sometimes the simplest — to reduce voting inequality, we must get more voters to vote. This consists of two parts — getting more voters registered and getting more valid votes from those voters.

  • Register more voters at community organizations — While there are many political organizations dedicated to increasing civic engagement, nonprofit service providers should conduct civic outreach to reach a broader population. One study found that voters under 30 years old who were contacted by nonprofits turned out to vote at a rate 5.7% higher than uncontacted voters. Organizations like community health centers and food pantries are more likely to make contact and have built trust with groups who historically vote at lower rates. Hospitals in particular have been incredibly successful for voter registration. In 2020, healthcare providers helped 48,000 patients, clients or colleagues get ready to vote in over 700 hospitals, clinics, departments and medical programs across America. Vot-ER, a non-profit organization, provided tools for these healthcare providers to help their patients vote.
  • Get more valid votes through “No-Excuse” Absentee Voting —The COVID-19 pandemic showed the importance of absentee voting. Over 90 million absentee ballots were requested or sent to voters and states like Pennsylvania saw a +2,500% increase in absentee requests from the 2016 election. However, 23 states still require voters to provide an excuse why they need an absentee ballot and can’t vote in person. As of February 2021, 33 bills in 11 states have been proposed to eliminate these excuse requirements, which would allow all voters to vote absentee, making the voting process more accessible for those with long work hours or have unreliable access to transportation. No excuse absentee voting leads to a 3% increase in voter turnout over time, when controlling for other factors.

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Jeremy Ney

Jeremy Ney

Google, MIT, Harvard, UPenn, Federal Reserve, now writing about inequality at AmericanInequality.substack.com