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Voter suppression refers to a variety of tactics aimed at lowering (suppressing) the number of voters who might otherwise vote in a particular election. The term is generally used pejoratively, in the sense that some acts of disenfranchisement have at times been defended for one reason or another as leading to a public good (such as various reasons for disenfranchising felons) whereas when the term "voter supppression" is applied, the person using the phrase generally means to wholeheartedly condemn the act or to imply that it can have had no legitimate justification.
Types of vote suppression
Contemporary partisan behavior that is generally seen as constituting deliberate acts of voter suppression include:
- Phone jamming.
- False information intended to prevent voters from voting
- Illegal third-party registration conduct
- Intimidation of voters
- Media induced voter suppression
There are also situations that may in fact suppress some votes, but may not (or may) be intended to do so. These include:
- Insufficient or unequal resources devoted to election administration
- Legislation that creates clerical burdens that make it more difficult to register and vote
The relevant question asked in the case of laws that create additional clerical difficulties in terms of voting and voter registration is the balancing test question of whether the law does more harm than good, or vice versa. The thinking in these cases is that some clerical burdens on the voter are justified to ensure that people who are not eligible to vote are not voting, but that some laws impose a degree of difficulty on the process that lead to eligible voters not voting. These questions are very much alive as public policy questions.
Partisan differences over suppression
Perceptions of vote fraud show partisan differences; according to Rasmussen Reports:
- Most Republicans believe that voting problems are most likely to result from people who are not eligible to vote being allowed to vote.
- Most Democrats say the most likely problem is that people who should be allowed to vote will be denied the right to do so.
Some Democrats believe that when Republicans play up vote fraud, this is a form of voter suppression. Maria Cardoza of the Democratic National Committee says that "ballot security and preventing vote fraud are just code words for voter intimidation and suppression".