Voting is a fundamental right, and in an ideal (and wholly more legal) world, there would be no unnecessary barriers to practicing your right to vote. But unfortunately, as has been seen throughout election history, and most recently in the complete mishandling of Arizona's primary election, American voters do not live in an ideal world. That's why the best thing to do if you want to be a well-informed voter (indeed, a voter at all) is to know your rights and fight back when those rights are short-changed or flat out denied.
The voter suppression that occurred during the Arizona primary this week is a prime example of what happens when people are denied their right to adequately participate in the voting process. Countless voters were turned away after waiting hours upon hours in line, missing their entire work days. Independents were unable to adhere to the Democratic Party rules and switch to a Democratic ballot, forfeiting their potential to vote in the primary election at all. There was also an extreme lack of available polling options for Latino-centric areas of Arizona, despite the fact that state capital Phoenix boasts a 40.8 percent Latino population.
How did all of this happen? For starters, Maricopa County, the state's most populous county, closed 70 percent of all of its polling locations to reduce cost. Evidently this reduction in cost, however, comes at the price of denying people their right to vote. While the county had some 200 polling place during the 2012 election season, this time it only had 60. In other words, that is one polling site for every 21,000 voters.
Much of this can be blamed on crackdowns on "voter fraud." In an attempt to curve voter fraud, which generally only occurs at a rate of 0.00000013 percent in all federal elections, GOP lawmakers have framed a narrative in which voters are constantly trying to cheat the system. Despite the rare instances of this actually happening, up to 9 percent of voters will be hurt by this disenfranchisement, and that hurt is generally disproportionately thrust upon lower-income, people of color voters.
So the question becomes focused on not whether this is happening or not, but how voters can best fight back against disenfranchisement.
One thing voters can do is elect officials who will work in the best interest of their ability to vote.
That means electing officials who do not support outrageous voter ID laws and gerrymandering, both of which are often used to restrict ease of voting access. Likewise, voters can work to elect officials who want to restore the original version of the Voting Rights Act, which now offers less protections for voters in areas with history of discrimination.
Knowing your rights as a voter is equally important — if you are in a line while the polls close, for instance, you are still entitled to be able to vote. You can likewise report instances of voter suppression or mistreatment to election monitors in your area.
And while all of that is easier said than done when combating a system that works against a large majority of Americans, it is nevertheless important to know. Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy, and being informed on the best way to participate is the greatest thing voters can do.
Image: Tina Gong/Bustle