During the 2018 midterm elections, voter participation was more than 10 percentage points higher than it was in the 2014 midterm elections, demonstrating Americans’ demand for change and increased enthusiasm for exercising their civic duty to vote. That said, nearly 120 million eligible Americans did not participate in the November elections.
Widespread voter suppression—particularly against historically marginalized groups—is a reoccurring problem in the United States. Each election cycle, untold numbers of eligible Americans are prevented from voting due to barriers in the voter registration process, restrictions on casting ballots, and discriminatory and partisan-rigged district maps. Voter suppression measures can differ by state and even by individual county. And while some voter suppression measures actively seek to discriminate against certain groups, others result from innocent administrative errors and glitches. Regardless of its form or intent, however, voter suppression is relentlessly effective in preventing voting-eligible Americans from contributing to the electoral process.
This year—perhaps uncoincidentally—severe voter suppression occurred in states with highly competitive political races, including Georgia, Texas, Florida, and North Dakota. Policies and practices that limit participation by even a few thousand votes can mean the difference between victory and defeat in competitive elections. When voters cast a ballot, they expect their votes to matter in choosing representatives who are responsive to, reflective of, and accountable to the communities they represent. Yet when voter suppression occurs, election results may be less reflective of constituents’ actual will.
This report describes some of the voter suppression measures and other Election Day problems that potentially kept millions of eligible Americans from participating in the 2018 midterm elections. These include:
1. Voter registration problems
2. Voter purges
3. Strict voter ID and ballot requirements
4. Voter confusion
5. Voter intimidation and harassment
6. Poll closures and long lines
7. Malfunctioning voting equipment
8. Disenfranchisement of justice-involved individuals
This report also offers recommendations for combating voter suppression and making voting more convenient for all eligible Americans.