THE NEW WAVE OF ATTACKS ON AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS

Millions of Americans may be disenfranchised due to widespread, coordinated attacks on voting rights and voter access.


Voter suppression is deeply rooted in American history. Nearly everyone has had to fight for equal citizenship and the right to cast a ballot.

The powerful people's movements of the early twentieth century culminated with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, putting an end to many forms of discrimination and disenfranchisement. But the backlash began immediately

In the case of voting rights, the effort to reestablish discrimination has never abated, as described most recently in Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman.

In its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, a conservative Supreme Court majority finally succeeded in striking down the powerful "preclearance" provision of the Voting Rights Act, on the proposition that it is no longer needed because it has been working. 

Regions with ugly histories of racial discrimination—nine states and more than 60 counties—previously had to seek preclearance from the Department of Justice for any changes to their voting laws. 

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that destroying preclearance is like "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

The Shelby decision strengthened a multi-pronged assault on voting rights already well underway—not just in the South but across the country.

Many of the voter suppression laws introduced in 23 states were modeled on legislation created and distributed by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

The barrage of new suppression laws are claimed to be a response to a widespread epidemic of minority "voter fraud"—where scores of dark-skinned and illegal voters are rigging elections at the polls.

However, according to the Brennan Center and all credible election experts, this alleged rampant fraud is a myth; scaremongering used successfully to promote voter suppression laws.

Voter suppression laws target not only minorities but also students, the poor, and the elderly.


The 2015 Map of Shame from Election Protection and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law highlights states where new or pending legislation threatens to suppress the right to vote.


THREATS TO VOTING RIGHTS AND ACCESS IN 2016

According to Civil Rights leader Barbara Arnwine, the right to vote remains under attack in 2016 by forces who still believe the ballot should stay in the hands of a precious few.

The following will cause millions of voters to be disenfranchised in the 2016 election:

  • Ending "preclearance" of the Voting Rights Act

  • Voter registration errors 

  • Draconian voter ID laws

  • Purging voter rolls

  • Caging lists

  • Felon disenfranchisement

  • Malfunctioning voting machines 

  • Problems with absentee ballots 

  • Undertrained poll workers 

  • Understaffed polling places 

  • Deceptive election practices

  • Ineffective planning 

  • Misallocation of resources and voting equipment 

  • Partisan election administration

  • Dirty tricks, robocalling and Election Day misinformation

According to the Institute for Southern Studies, an estimated 500,000 voters nationally didn't vote in 2012 because of problems at the polls, including long lines. Caltech/MIT reports 730,000 prospective voters were turned away due to long lines alone.

According to a Census Bureau report, with 23 million hours of waiting time in the 2012 elections, at an average hourly wage of $23.67, standing in line at the polls had a total economic cost of more than $544 million.


Though long lines were the story of the day, the problems run deeper than what appeared in the news media; the lines were a visible symptom of institutional problems afflicting our system of elections.
— Election Protection 2012 report OUR BROKEN VOTING SYSTEM AND HOW TO REPAIR IT

People of color remain underrepresented in elected office

According to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, based on the most recent data:

African Americans are 12.5% of the citizen voting age population, but they make up a smaller share of the U.S. House (10%), state legislatures (8.5%), city councils (5.7%), and the U.S. Senate (2%).  

Latinos make up 11% of the citizen voting age population, but they are a smaller share of the U.S. House (7%), state legislatures (5%), the U.S. Senate (4%), and city councils (3.3%).  

Asian Americans are 3.8% of the citizen voting age population but a smaller share of the U.S. House (2%), state legislatures (2%), the U.S. Senate (1%), and city councils (0.4%).