Voting Rights Expert: Still Work to Be Done in Representation, Access

by April 24, 2020

Christina Rivers

CHICAGO — The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote was ratified by the states Aug. 18, 1920. During the 100th anniversary year of women’s suffrage, DePaul University’s Christina Rivers is available to discuss the significance of the movement, its relevance today, and the work still left to be done.

Christina Rivers, Associate Professor of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Rivers is an expert on race and representation in the U.S., African American politics and political thought, and civil and voting rights law.

Rivers can speak to the limitations of the women’s suffrage movement.

“By some historical accounts, the women’s suffrage movement fell short almost right off the bat. For the first couple of decades, women really sat on their right to vote. It’s not that they didn’t vote, but they didn’t vote in ways that would lead to them running and being elected to office. It wasn’t until the 1960s that women started to talk more about utilizing their right to vote as well as their voice to improve their positions in the domestic and public spheres. To an extent, this is still felt today where it’s nice to have the vote, but it only means so much when women are still so profoundly underrepresented in legislative and other elected bodies. Had someone told me if I were alive in 1920 that in 2020 there would still be this disproportionality across all levels of government, I’m not sure if I would have believed them,” said Rivers.

She can also talk about groups still fighting for full voting rights.

“African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, students, and citizens who are in jail or who have had a felony conviction are all still fighting for the right to vote. We are facing a new wave of voter suppression. The most recent tactics we’re seeing are voting purges, which isn’t a new practice and not necessarily always a problem. It is premature purges however, or those with a strong racial disproportionality, that are an issue. Another issue with voting includes the accessibility of precincts, the shortening periods of early voting, and voter ID laws, all of which disproportionately affect people of color. Some voter ID states make it especially difficult for students to vote. Those, for example, that don’t accept student IDs instead of official states IDs, knowing students struggle with the time or money to get a state ID. Native Americans have experienced voter purges and redistricting issues in the past 10 years or so that have had a very damaging effect on their ability to vote and be represented.

“Finally, states disenfranchise those with a felony conviction to varying degrees, and in some cases the disenfranchisement is effectively permanent. While Illinois restores voter eligibility to people upon their release from prison, many formerly incarcerated citizens are not aware of this, and think that they are permanently disenfranchised. Similarly, the vast majority of citizens in jail awaiting trial are eligible to vote.  But most don’t know this, and virtually none of them have access to the ballot while detained. In 2019, Illinois became the first state to mandate voter access and education for those in its jails and prisons, and we hope that other states will follow suit,” Rivers added.

Rivers bio: https://las.depaul.edu/academics/political-science/faculty/Pages/christina-rivers.aspx.

Recent media coverage:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email