Baraga backs voter suppression

To the editor:

The recent decision of the Baraga County Board to rescind one’s voting rights if they do not contribute enough tax money is reminiscent of poll tax laws made illegal by the adoption of the 24th Amendment in 1964.

The proposal was originally brought up by district attorney Joseph O’Leary and brought to the board for a vote. After a clear win, the decision was immediately reversed due to public outcry. There is light at the end of the tunnel – citizens helped stopped this by simply raising their voice.

Voter suppression is often synonymous with ‘rumor’, or something that “doesn’t happen around here”, but Baraga County Board has proved us wrong. Voter suppression is alive and well and comes in many forms – as citizens, it is up to us to educate ourselves on activities that could prohibit vulnerable groups of people from reaching the polls.

This brings us to what must be done moving forward – what can we do as individual citizens to make a difference? Two of the most important things you may do to help better the current situation are to encourage those around you to register to vote and to educate yourselves on the various ways that groups can try to manipulate elections by suppressing voting rights.

Only one half of eligible U.S. voters voted in the 2016 presidential election, yet everyone seems to have an opinion about the current administration. Take those opinions, whatever side (or lack thereof) and express them at the polls. Parents, encourage your children to register when they turn 18.

As for other ways that people are trying to suppress voting rights, one of the most pressing voting issues facing Michigan right now is gerrymandering, the process of redrawing district lines to help swing elections in one party’s favor. This tactic has plagued Michigan, making it one of the worst states for gerrymandering. For more information on this topic and what you can do about it, please join League of Women Voters Member Dr. Martha Sloan at the Portage Lake District Library on Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. for an educational discussion about gerrymandering and what can be done.

Voter suppression is not a thing of the past nor is it a problem in any place but here. Take action – become educated about voting rights issues, register to vote, and make your voice heard to politicians in the best place possible: at the polls.

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