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Tem Blessed is Dream Corps’ Arts & Culture Organizer. In our fourth Truth Cast episode, he discusses lines at the polls and what else to expect if you’re voting in person this election day.

Why are the lines at the polls so long?

We’ve all seen images of voters waiting in lines for hours to vote. Why is it happening? Well, happily, part of the reason is record voter turnout.

But long lines aren’t just a sign of high turnout, they’re also a marker of voter suppression.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the Jim Crow laws that were designed to keep Black folks from voting after the end of slavery, and lowered barriers to voting for many thousands of Black voters across the US, especially in the south. In 2013, the Shelby v. Holder decision gutted the Voting Rights Act, including a key provision that allowed federal agencies to block discriminatory changes to voting processes.

Since that decision, many states have attempted to suppress Black and Latinx voter participation any way they can — by shortening voting hours and days, creating new barriers like voter ID laws, purging millions of eligible voters from rolls, reshaping voting districts (gerrymandering), and last but not least, closing polling locations. For some sense of scale, 1,688 polling places have been closed in over 13 states since 2012.

Black and Brown voters are disproportionately affected by poll closures. In addition to the confusion caused, we often need to travel further to vote, and will receive less accessibility support like language assistance. All of that adds up to depressed turnout in Black and Brown communities – and long lines.

This year, our electoral process is also contending with a global pandemic, and some states and counties have already faced tech challenges that have slowed voting to a crawl.

So what can we do? Well, VOTE!

  • Our representatives set these policies, so vote for candidates who support democracy over power grabs.
  • Make a voting plan.
  • Check where your polling place is with your local election office.
  • If you plan to vote in person, prepare for lines. 
  • Bring water, a snack, and dress for the weather.
  • Protect yourself from COVID with a mask and bring some hand sanitizer. And don’t forget; if you are in line before the polling station closes, you are legally allowed to vote! So stay in line!

To report issues at polling stations, call 866-OUR-VOTE. To help us get out the vote, text VOTE to 974-83.

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