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  • Michalina Kubicka

Barriers to Access: What We Learned

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

Happy Thursday! Welcome back to the VFP blog. Over the course of the last seven weeks, we’ve explored a number of the factors - structural and artificial - that prevent Americans from voting. This week, we’re going to take a look back at what we found, and take a look forward at what’s to come.

(Michael Fleshman / Flickr)

What We Found

We looked at the barriers faced by voters with disabilities, Native voters, older voters, younger voters, rural voters, new American voters, and low-income voters. Here’s what we learned:

  • Despite existing protections under federal law, more than two-thirds of polling places are inaccessible to voters with disabilities.

  • Native voters are kept from the polls by their lack of traditional addressing, geographic barriers (​​limited numbers of polling sites and drop boxes for absentee ballots force some on reservations to drive 150 miles to vote), and prohibitions on ballot collection designed specifically to disenfranchise Native voters.

  • One in five Americans over the age of 65 (about 8 million) didn’t have a current, government-issued photo ID, making them particularly vulnerable to disenfranchisement under the wave of strict voter ID laws being implemented across the country.

  • Young voters, particularly those of color, cited lack of access to transportation, challenges proving residency in a new place (including lack of proper ID), and cost as key factors driving their turnout rates lower than any other age group.

  • Since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that repealed large parts of the Voting Rights Act, rural voters have been disenfranchised by the closure of thousands of polling places, as well as sweeping restrictions on access to vote by mail and ballot drop boxes.

  • The arduous process (and enormous cost) of gaining and proving U.S. citizenship, as well as language barriers, keep millions of New Americans away from the polls (in 2020, more than eight million U.S. citizens were kept from voting by language barriers alone).

  • For low-income voters, cost (an average of $75-$175 for a free voter ID) is often enough to keep the polls inaccessible, especially when taken with the barriers posed by re-registration requirements for frequent movers.

The Time to Act is Now

One of the loudest and clearest voices in the fight against the type of voter suppression that we covered in our series has been election lawyer Marc Elias and his organization, Democracy Docket.


In addition to suing the living daylights out of would-be vote suppressors (with great success, we might add!), Elias and his team have put together a handy list of volunteer opportunities by state, and a few you can do from anywhere, like volunteering with the Poor People’s Campaign, the Election Protection hotline, and VoteRiders.

One thing that would address these problems? The For the People Act. State officials from across the country are continuing to pressure Washington lawmakers to act on voting rights, and you can join in and express your support for H.R. 1 by calling the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121.

Thanks for reading, y’all! Talk soon.

“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” – James Baldwin

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