By Chelsea Feinstein
LOWELL -- Just days before the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, many Americans still have concerns about the fairness of elections, according to a poll released by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion Thursday.
Though the poll shows that many Americans still believe there are roadblocks to participation in the electoral process, it also indicates that beliefs on access are largely divided along party lines.
Fifty-one percent of respondents to the poll saw voter access as a bigger issue than voter fraud. But among Democrats, 78 percent said that access is the greater problem, while only 22 percent of Republicans did. Among independents, 57 percent said fraud was the bigger issue.
"As we look at the state of public attitudes on voting 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed into law, it is concerning that a right as fundamental to democracy as voting is so heavily politicized," Professor Joshua Dyck, co-director of UMass Lowell's Center for Public Opinion, said in a statement. "The parties have clearly staked out grounds with Democrats expressing concern about the free and available use of the franchise and Republicans expressing concern about voter fraud; this concern is now readily apparent in our surveys of elections."
The issues also split across racial lines. Among white respondents, 57 percent saw fraud as the bigger problem, while 88 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Latinos said access is the bigger problem.
"Since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, much progress has been made in ensuring the right to vote. However, recent court decisions and efforts at the state level to change laws require vigilance by citizens to continue the work of those who fought so hard 50 years ago," said Frank Talty, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion.