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Voter Suppression

In 1896 the High Court legitimized the notion of “separate but equal” societies in America. By 1900, nearly all of the Reconstruction-era gains in voting rights had been reversed, and the resulting Jim Crow era persisted until the second half of the 20th Century. The concerted to effectively nullify the 15th Amendment was carried out in a variety of ways, including racially-inspired and racially enforced restrictions on voter registration and voting, election methods that sought to dilute any residual voting power of African Americans, and fraud and violence directed against African-American voters.

After World War II, the Jim Crow regime began to crumble in the face of civil rights protests, a Supreme Court and lower federal courts that rejected racial discrimination, tentative action by the federal Executive Branch, and a national consciousness that at least raised questions about Jim Crow. Congress enacted its first voting rights laws since the 19th Century in 1957, 1960, and 1964, and lawsuits were filed against numerous voting registrars in the South by the newly created Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Voting rights are under attack in America. Quietly, gradually, state-by-state, the right to vote – a right that many people died to secure – is being taken away. The Brennan Center released a report that shows that voting law changes across the nation will make it significantly harder for more than 5 million voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

There is not just one law, but many types of laws that are disenfranchising millions of voters: voter photo identification laws, proof of citizenship laws, barriers to registration, elimination of early voting and absentee voting, and laws making it harder to restore voting rights for people who have paid their debt to society. These laws are a barrier to an inclusive democracy.

“Study after study based on the facts indicates “ improper non-citizen votes amounts to .0001 percent” of studied districts in the 2016 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The idea that voter impersonation impacts the integrity of U.S. elections is a myth fomented by those who want to make it harder and more difficult for minorities to vote. Some want an unfair advantage that allows them to disregard minorities and still win seats even in cities where minority populations are the majority.

As the minority language population continues to grow and move in larger numbers to more states and localities, violations of Section 203 and the other language-related protections — sometimes in combination with intimidation or harassment — are occurring in new areas of the country. Indigenous peoples also continue to suffer recent and severe discrimination in voting. The problem is voter discrimination, and even Chief Justice Roberts in his decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case admitted that there was no question that voter discrimination is still prevalent in American society.

As Chief Justice Warren observed in his seminal opinion in South Carolina v. Katzenbach upholding the VRA’s constitutionality a few months after it was enacted, "[t]he Voting Rights Act of 1965 reflects Congress’ firm intention to rid the country of racial discrimination in voting. The heart of the Act is a complex scheme of stringent remedies aimed at areas where voting discrimination has been most flagrant… [Other] remedial portions of the Act are aimed at voting discrimination in any area of the country where it may occur." For over three decades, Congress, the Executive Branch, and the federal courts joined together in a historic effort to vigorously enforce the VRA and give life to the 15th Amendment’s guarantee that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race or color. This consensus began to erode.

Voting practices that limit or restrict access to registration or voting may discriminate on the basis of race or language minority status (depending upon the particular practice involved and/or the circumstances in which the practice is being implemented). Practices that may be of concern include: registration limitations or the improper purging of registration rolls; a lack of bilingual assistance or ineffective bilingual assistance; limitations on early in-person voting or absentee voting; a photo ID requirement for in-person voting; the elimination of polling places or polling place changes; voter intimidation; and restrictions on candidate qualifications or on candidate qualification procedures.

Voting practices that may dilute minority voting strength are those election methods or structures which, in the context of racially polarized voting, tend to minimize or cancel out the ability of minority voters to elect their preferred candidates to office. Such practices may include: at-large election systems; multi-member election districts; redistricting plans that unnecessarily fragment minority areas or pack minority voters into a limited number of districts; and annexations of white residential areas that either fence out minority residential areas or reduce a city’s minority population percentage in the context of at-large voting.

Discriminatory ballot-access restrictions are sometimes referred to as “first generation” discrimination and vote dilution as “second generation” discrimination. This reflects the fact that, historically, restrictions on ballot access were often the initial method chosen to deny or abridge the right to vote, and vote dilution was undertaken only after minority voters gained access to the ballot at least to some extent. However, in reality, both types of discrimination may occur concurrently, and instances of “first generation” discrimination may follow after “second generation” discrimination.

Trump’s Executive Order established an “election integrity” commission to investigate widespread voter fraud. All to appease his enormous insecurity about the fact that he lost the popular vote by a sum of 2.9 million Americans. This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression. “The only irregularity in the 2016 presidential election centered around Russian tampering, a finding confirmed by 17 intelligence agencies and sworn testimony delivered to several congressional committees.

A 2014 study found only 31 credible instances of in-person voter fraud were discovered out of more than one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, by majority vote, expressed serious concern 18 August 2017 with the Department of Justice’s recent change of position in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, an Ohio voting rights case scheduled to be argued before the Supreme Court during its upcoming October Term. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) prescribes rules for when state voter registration maintenance programs may remove voters from voter rolls, and explicitly prohibits the removal of an eligible voter because of a person’s failure to vote. This stance opens the door to more aggressive and inaccurate purging of voter rolls, which can lead to widespread voter disenfranchisement and suppression of low income communities and communities of color.

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Page last modified: 19-08-2017 18:28:39 ZULU