With Help From The Eclipse, Policy Analyst Sean McElwee Made An Important Civic Issue Completely Relatable

It's not just an issue of the past.

Most Americans probably wouldn't think voter suppression and solar eclipses had much in common but one Twitter user saw a perfect line between the two.

On Monday, as Americans across the country were preparing for the rare opportunity to see a full solar eclipse, Sean McElwee saw an opportunity to help explain how simple-seeming voting limitations can lead to voter suppression. McElwee, a policy analyst at Demos Action, put it like this:

"If you're frantically trying to buy eclipse glasses right now, you'll understand why 30-day registration deadlines reduce voter turnout."


The funny tweet was a nod not just to the frantic scramble for eclipse-viewing glasses, but also to voting rights issues that are becoming more and more common in the United States even in 2016. Twenty states now have more restrictive voting laws than they did in the 2010 elections, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

"10 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place (and six states have strict photo ID requirements)," the center's website says. "Seven have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions."

Even in the recent, heavily covered Georgia special election featuring Jon Ossoff, voter registration laws initially stopped many from participating. It took a federal court order against Georgia's 90-day registration cut off in order for recently registered citizens to participate in the election. While the ruling was considered a major win for voting rights activists, it was still a shock to some that the federal court order was necessary in the first place.

Organizations like the ACLU are now also in the trenches of the battle for improved voting rights across the country. In important battleground states like Ohio, recent voter registration laws are making it harder and harder for Americans to participate in democracy. In 2014, Ohio eliminated the the "Golden Week," a time usually before an election during which Ohioans could register and cast a vote all in the same day. In 2012, 90,000 Ohioans voted during the Golden Week. 

In response, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the cutbacks, as did some separate groups. One lawsuit led to a settlement that restored evening and weekend voting opportunities that had previously been eliminated. 

On its website, the ACLU continues to pushing a fight for voting rights as one of the most pressing issues of our time. 

"Politicians across the country continue to engage in voter suppression, efforts that include additional obstacles to registration, cutbacks on early voting, and strict voter identification requirements," its website says. "Through litigation and advocacy, the ACLU is fighting back against attempts to curtail an essential right in our democracy, the right to vote."

Cover photo: Shutterstock / J. Bicking / muratart.


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.