With the 2016 presidential election only days away and early voting underway, Worcester State University recently hosted a voting rights symposium that was open to both students and the public. The goal of the symposium was to foster a community-grounded dialogue about the impacts of redistricting and voter identification laws on electoral politics in Massachusetts and across the United States.
Nationally renowned sociologist Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz delivered a keynote lecture on “Race and Voting Rights in a Time of Demographobia,” which was followed by an expert panel on “Voter ID Laws and Voter Mobilization” and a panel on “Redistricting and the Community Response.”
Voter ID laws have become “a very controversial and widely discussed and debated topic” in the past few years as critics have accused them of enabling voter suppression, according to Assistant Professor of Urban Studies Madeline Otis Campbell, Ph.D.
“In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned one of the most fundamental parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Campbell, in an interview with Worcester News Tonight . “So, as a result, there is less oversight of voting in elections on a state-by-state basis. [Voter ID laws] tend to affect communities of color in particular.”
While there is much talk about the possibility of voter fraud, Campbell said that she and her peers feel that the real concerns are voter suppression and the threat to people’s ability to feel comfortable and safe going to the polls.
The issues of voter fraud and voting rights have been a part of the larger and ongoing national conversation during this year’s election.
The symposium was offered by the Center for the Study of Human Rights .