SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News ) – With the primary elections just around the corner, voters in Central New York might start to make their plan for voting. Even though residents of New York state do not typically have to worry about voter suppression, some Syracuse University students can experience it when they vote in their home states by mail.
Voter suppression can be any activity or barrier put in place by a government or election official to make voting increasingly difficult or impossible for people in their area. Onondaga County Democratic Election Commissioner Dustin Czarny said that even though New York has been behind with certain voting reforms, the state is still doing better than many others across the country.
“Some of the more outrageous voter suppressions that we see around absentee balloting and other places throughout the country is not happening here in New York,” Czarny said.
The absentee balloting problems that he referred to were prevalent in Texas during the presidential election. Syracuse University student Chase Fitzpatrick requested his absentee ballot well before the deadline, but when election day rolled around, he had yet to receive his ballot in the mail. Fitzpatrick made a spontaneous decision to fly home to Texas on election day to vote in person.
“At the time, seemingly a lot of stakes were on the line. I felt it was my duty, so I made the personal decision to fly back home to Texas, which is where I’m at now, and vote in person,” Fitzpatrick said.
When Fitzpatrick arrived in Texas, he had to cast his vote provisionally. Election officials needed to confirm that he did not vote-by-mail, before adding his vote to the official count. This meant that his vote was likely not counted until after the election was already called.
Kristi Andersen, a Syracuse University political science professor said that voting provisionally can be a key way to prevent voter suppression.
“You know, if it works, it helps people correct mistakes, or encourages people to vote even though they may do something that’s technically wrong,” Andersen said.
Though sometimes voter suppression can be out of the control of the voter, Fitzpatrick offered advice to people to attempt to ensure that their voice gets heard on election day.
“Work with friends. Check that all your friends are registered… Utilize your community and your resources to make sure everyone’s vote is heard,” Fitzpatrick said.
Even though this problem occurred almost a year and a half ago, voter suppression attempts from past elections are still making headlines. Just yesterday, a lawsuit got underway in Georgia to prove that Governor Brian Kemp intentionally suppressed votes in the gubernatorial election that took place four years ago.
If proven, historic voting laws could be changed in Georgia, which would make it much more difficult to intentionally suppress votes in favor of one political party.