Americans could lose voting rights if they don’t vote, Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman says

Will Kosinski

Even though the number of registered Texas voters has sharply increased since March, voting rights reporter Ari Berman said the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections could potentially threaten voting rights across the state and nation.

The Mother Jones national reporter spoke to students Thursday at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs about how he believes Texas’ voter registration laws, voter ID laws and gerrymandered congressional districts made effective since 2010 restrict minority representation and will likely be made worse if the GOP maintains power after the midterms.

“State races are critically important for voting rights in this country,” Berman said. “We don’t know which way (this midterm election) is going to go. But I can tell you that if we keep restricting voting rights, it will be more likely to go in one direction than another.” 

After the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder struck down two provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Berman said he is now worried voting rights will continue to deteriorate and create a more unrepresentative government.

“Voter suppression is fundamentally immoral,” Berman said. “When you prevent people from voting, you are undermining the core of American democracy.”

Political communications sophomore William Heard said while he believes voter ID laws are important, current laws threaten government’s ability to work for the majority of constituents.

“Our form of government is based on representation so when people aren’t represented, we get a government that does not act in the interest of the people,” Heard said. “Making access easier with automatic registration or same-day registration will make our government more truly representative of its populous.”

Patti Edelman, a Travis County election judge who attended the talk, said she has seen countless instances of voter disenfranchisement both through her job and upbringing during the time of Jim Crow laws. Edelman said widespread changes are needed to promote true equality in America.

“Every one person’s vote counts,” Edelman said. “We need to change the way that we register, encourage and educate people about voting so that we can have the best government in the world.”

When asked how he knows voting matters, Berman said everybody’s individual power has the potential to decide elections and voting policies.

“People wouldn’t be trying to suppress your right to vote if they didn’t think it matters,” Berman said.