"The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition" -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Voting Rights

On Monday, January 16, 2023, faculty, staff, students, and community members gathered at the Art and Music Center to honor, reflect on, and celebrate the life of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In his substantial work as an activist, voting rights for Black Americans were at the center of several actions which contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act, inequities in the voting process remain today. To raise awareness around these issues, the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Equity organized a simulated voter suppression activity that asks participants to consider the current barriers many Black Americans and other communities of color face when they cast their ballots. 

Esperanza Garcia speaks at a microphone

"We pulled examples from the presidential election of 2020 to be able to create a simulation," Esperanza Garcia, told MLive. Garcia is the student engagement coordinator at the Center for Diversity, Inclusion & Equity on campus and helped organize the event using a study published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.  

The 2021 study identifies discriminatory voting practices including restrictive voting laws, discriminatory voter roll purges, the suppression of mail voting, racial discrimination at polling places, voter intimidation, and post election suppression such as attempts to overturn election results aimed at jurisdictions with high Black and Latino populations. Each of the simulated voter IDs participants were provided with corresponded with a type of suppression they would then have to navigate to cast their mock ballot and have it counted.

After the simulation, a group discussion was held where participants processed their experiences together and connected them to the stories of voters in the 2020 election.

"We definitely have some ways to go to take down those barriers,"Alicia Lloyd, Dean of Students, told MLive. "I think it's great to open some people's eyes to those different experiences."

Alicia Lloyd speaking in front of a camera in a hallway while someone operates the camera

Alicia Lloyd speaking in front of a camera in a hallway while someone operates the camera

Aquinas College also invited members of the True Light Baptist Church Choir to sing after the simulation and discussion concluded. To hear some of the choir's performance, see images of the event, and hear the voice of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., check out the video below commemorating this campus event.
We've also included links to recommended reading from the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion below. 

Recommended Reading:

Timeline: Voter suppression in the US from the Civil War to today
Restrictive laws in effect for the 2022 midterms
There is a voter-suppression wing
Voter irregularities in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election
Voter intimidation is surging in 2020