This Oregon Trail-Based Video Game Shows How You’ll Be Prevented From Voting
“Find out if your vote can survive the adventure of American democracy!”
As millions of Americans cast their ballots on Tuesday, millions more will not, deprived of the ability by policies that systematically suppress the voting rights of low-income citizens and citizens of color.
To demonstrate how this disenfranchisement works, The New York Times published a video game that simulates election day for three types of voters: a white programmer from California; a Latina nurse from Texas; and a black salesman from Wisconsin.
In the game, “The Voter Suppression Trail”—based on the PC classic “Oregon Trail”—the latter two characters must overcome inconveniently located polling sites, restrictive voter identification laws, intimidation tactics, and other hurdles in order to cast their votes. Meanwhile the white programmer from California leisurely strolls to his nearby polling site and submits his ballot with minimal drama.
Like “Oregon Trail,” players are presented with obstacles and must choose from various options to respond. You can play the game here.
Of course, voter suppression is not just a game. Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which permitted states to pass voting laws without federal approval—thereby gutting the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965—Republican officials have taken extreme measures to restrict minority citizens’ ability to vote.
A recent study of seven states previously protected by the Voting Rights Act showed that 43 percent of counties have reduced the number of voting locations since 2013 in areas that serve Democrat-leaning minority voters. In the 381 counties surveyed, there are 868 fewer places to vote this election than in the 2014 mid-terms.
States have restricted early voting in similarly discriminatory ways. North Carolina, for example, completely cut 27 voting sites this year and dramatically reduced early voting hours at remaining sites—restrictions that a U.S. Court of Appeals recently described as “target(ing) African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
At the same time, voter ID laws—which now exist in 34 states despite extensive evidence that in-person “voter fraud” is incredibly rare and has no impact on elections—suppress turnout for Latino voters by 10.8 percent and for multiracial Americans by 12.8 percent.
These new legal developments, in addition to practical obstacles facing low-income voters like less flexible work schedules and the pressures of single-parent households, contribute to America touting the second lowest voter turnout in the developed world, disproportionately impacting Americans of color.
“The Voter Suppression Trail” visualizes this persisting problem, which recalls America’s long history of racially motivated voter suppression, in a way that highlights discrimination’s absurdity. The game was designed by the creators of GOP Arcade, a series of sarcastic election-themed games including “Angry Olds” and “Get Trump’s Taxes.”