Claudine Constant of the ACLU of Connecticut explained that the narrative tends to be that black and brown residents don’t care about voting.
HARTFORD, Conn. – People of color have historically been underrepresented in voter turnout during elections. While trends are changing, barriers that contribute to voter suppression in black and brown communities still exist.
Claudine Constant, director of public policy and advocacy for the ACLU of Connecticut, explained that the narrative is often that black and brown residents don’t care about voting. In reality, there are access issues preventing voters in these communities from voting, he said.
“Connecticut is one of the worst states in the country for laws that make voting accessible to people, especially people of color,” Constant explained.
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He said Connecticut is one of only four states without in-person early voting and one of the few without an excuse for absentee voting, which has created significant hurdles. This issue is up for a vote during the November general election.
“When there are restrictions on access to the ballot box, the people who get hurt and the worst are typically black and Latino because of systemic racism,” Constant said.
The ACLU of Connecticut said one example is that voters in predominantly black neighborhoods are 74 percent more likely to wait more than 30 minutes to vote on Election Day than voters in predominantly white areas.
“It means that people without the luxury of time, especially because of work, childcare and other things in life that are affected by systemic racism and oppression, don’t have time to go and wait and make sure I know that their voices are heard at the polls,” said Constant.
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Dr. Bilal Sekou, a political science professor at the University of Hartford, said Connecticut’s minority communities need to get involved in the political process and “know what’s going on” because health care, education and the system of criminal justice affect communities of color.
“So we need to get involved and know what’s going on and really pay attention and get out and vote,” he said.
Sekou said that while there is a long history of voter override, it has only been since the 1960s and the passage of the Voting Rights Act that people of color have had access to the ballot box.
“Voting rights like civil rights, we never win. We get victories, but we always have to keep in mind that there are people who are fighting against us,” he said. “It’s not pre-1965 in terms of the earlier Voting Rights Act, but people are making an effort to try to take us back to 1965, but we’re in a much better place to prevent that from happening.”
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Dr. Wesley Renfro, professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, explained that despite the barriers people of color have faced at the polls, a recent increase in black women voting.
“So when we get people to start voting, they’re much more likely to continue voting,” Renfro said. “So when you get them there once or twice, they’re more likely to show up two years later, two years later, and four years later.”
While showing up is essential, accessibility is key.
“It’s important that we make voting accessible to everyone and that everyone believes they can and should vote,” said Renfro.
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