Taking A Stand for Voting Rights in 2014

Voting is the foundation of our democracy. It brings together a broad and diverse coalition of the nation’s voices and ideas and allows everyone to participate in the legislative process. However, this fundamental right of voting is severely frayed and on the verge of breaking, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to dismantle a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. If we don’t act now to protect the right to vote, we put the very foundation of our democracy at risk.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder case decided on June 25, 2013 to strike down Section IV, a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). To address the gap left by the Supreme Court’s decision, members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation, S. 1945 / H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. 

Shelby challenged Section IV’s “preclearance” provision; this would allow jurisdictions which have an established history of state- or jurisdiction-administered disenfranchisement based on race need to obtain advance approval or “preclearance” from the US Department of Justice or the US District Court in D.C. before they can make any changes to voting practices and/or procedures.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg pointed out in her dissent of Shelby decision that “between 1982 and 2006, DOJ objections blocked over 700 voting changes based on a determination that the changes were discriminatory.”

The New York Times reports that voting rights are being attacked because of political reasons, not because of a need to protect citizens from “voter fraud.” Non-partisan groups, such as the Brennan Center for Justice, report that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning or see a UFO before identifying voter fraud.

What happened after the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision?

A new report by Pro Publica details how voting rights have been under attack across the country since the Shelby decision. This map shows how issues such as photo ID laws, ending early voting, stopping same-day registration and voter roll purging have been used as tactics to suppress voters, mainly those of African Americans. The darkened red color shows how voting policies toughened after the Shelby decision.

Summary of Introduced and Pending Restrictive Voting Legislation

Identification laws

  1. Photo ID laws. At least 11 states have introduced legislation either requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls or making existing photo ID laws more restrictive.
  2. Proof of citizenship laws. At least 2 states have introduced legislation requiring proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote.
  3. Making voter registration harder. At least 8 states have introduced legislation to limit voter registration mobilization efforts and reduce other registration opportunities.
  4. Reducing early voting opportunities. At least 2 states have introduced legislation to limit existing opportunities to vote early in person.
  5. Making it harder for students to vote. At least 1 state has introduced legislation that would make it harder for students to register and vote.[
  6. Reducing opportunities to vote by mail. At least 5 states have introduced legislation that would make it harder to cast ballots by mail.
  7. Making voter purges worse. At least 1 state has introduced legislation to limit protections for voter purges and increase the chance of wrongful removal of eligible voters.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice

What is the NAACP doing?

The NAACP is launching the Vote Watch Project to monitor voter suppression across the country, in time for mid-term elections. Locally, the Georgia NAACP State Conference is launching a program to educate and register voters. The North Carolina NAACP has been protesting the state legislature weekly about their voter suppression laws with their Moral Monday Movement. Nationally, branches, college chapters and youth councils are joining in this effort to educate and advocate for voting rights during this time of urgency.

Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director/Sr. V.P. for Advocacy and Policy:

Since the Supreme Court's decision last June striking down a key element in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, states and localities have brazenly pushed forward potentially discriminatory changes to voting, such as changing district boundaries to disadvantage some voters and moving polling locations in areas with high concentrations of minority voters. Failure to advance this legislation is a free pass to voter discrimination.

Find out what you can do to help us end voter suppression here.

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