What Is The Legal Definition Of “Voter Suppression?”

Voter suppression is usually defined as an effort to reduce a person or community’s opportunity to vote in a local, state, or federal election. Most efforts to suppress a vote are made by conservative groups aimed at reducing voter fraud — which bipartisan organizations like Brennan Center and even investigations by Trump’s own FBI have concluded is extremely rare in almost all cases.

“Bipartisan” means that the group is generally made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans or those who do not define their own beliefs in order to make a study or decision made is less likely to be swayed by inherent bias. One would think that Trump’s FBI is biased toward him, but it still found no real indication of voter fraud even though Trump himself continually and consistently claims that this is a widespread problem.

This is still true of the “mail-in” or “absentee” ballot. Neither is associated with voter fraud except by Republicans who support Trump, and both are widely considered safe — except that a high number of these ballots are thrown out due to complicated rules, like requiring a witness signature, requiring the ballot to be placed in an envelope inside another envelope, or signatures that don’t quite match. 

Republicans have long used the myth of voter fraud in efforts to reduce the number of votes cast. For example, some Republican-controlled Texas jurisdictions attempted to reduce the number of official drop-off ballot boxes to just one per county — which translates to one box for millions of people. A three-judge panel acknowledged that the suppressive tactic was constitutional. Notably, all three judges and Governor Abbott, who ordered the one-box rule, are Republican. 

This is a blatant effort to reduce the mail-in vote, which, in Texas, must be counted on Election Day. Texas is a state that could turn blue if enough voters turn out on Election Day. Most mail-in voters are Democrats, and most Democrats prefer to vote by mail during the pandemic. That makes it more likely that they will stay home, allowing Trump to take the state.