As the contentious U.S. midterm elections taking place on Tuesday, November 6, fast approach amid numerous accusations of voter suppression and disenfranchisement often along lines of race and class, at least one city is proactively making it easier to vote. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority has just approved free public transit on election day to help encourage people to turn out to the polls. This is especially important in California, which has a number of ballot initiatives impacting housing and the environment.
Ballot initiatives in California this November include Proposition 1, which would expand resources for veteran housing; Proposition 2, which would implement a 1 percent millionaire’s tax to help support mental health services, housing initiatives, and other resources for homeless people; Proposition 3 which would authorize nearly $9 billion in bonds for spending on water infrastructure and other environmental initiatives; and Proposition 10 which would allow local governments to implement rent control.
The decision to expand voter accessibility in Los Angeles comes at a time where various forms of voter suppression and disenfranchisement are being brought to light across the country, including the intentional disenfranchisement of certain people who have served jail time, voter roll purges in states like Georgia, and gerrymandering districts to turn them red, such as in North Carolina’s 13th district. Some sources have also spread misinformation on the day the elections take place, such as in Suffolk County, New York, where a mailer from Republican incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin featured the wrong deadline for absentee ballots (it’s November 5).
Voter ID laws in many states have been accused of preventing lower income and minority voters from being able to enact their right to vote. In North Dakota new ID and residence rules, upheld by the Supreme Court, have been argued to be systematically targeting Native Americans.
Relocating where people go to vote is another method that has been accused of attempting to prevent voter turnout. The ACLU has been brought a federal lawsuit over the choice to move a polling station for Dodge City, Kansas, whose population is majority Latinx, to a difficult-to-access location outside of the city limits. Similar moves to make voting hard to access, especially for people without flexible work schedules or easy transportation access, have been seen across the country, particularly in areas that have larger populations of people of color, as well as urban centers that tend to be more diverse and liberal-leaning.
Los Angeles’s announcement came as New York’s Citibike announced that their bikes would be free to use for all on election day. Motivate, Citibike’s parent company has announced that services in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Jersey City, Portland, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C. would all be free on November 6 as well.