Report: More than 1600 Polling Places Have Closed Since the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act – Mother Jones

The consequences of the Shelby County decision were immediate: States that had previously fallen under the jurisdiction of the VRA immediately passed tough voter restriction laws and restructured election systems. But a new report released today by the civil rights coalition The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights adds another dimension to the picture of how this 2013 ruling has undermined voter access by analyzing the number of polling place that have been closed since the ruling. According to the report, entitled “Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote,” 1,688 polling places are now shuttered in those areas. The report, which is a follow-up to a 2016 analysis, looked at 757 counties and found that 298 of them, or 39 percent, reduced their number of polling places between 2012 and 2018.

“Next to the ballot itself, the most identifiable element of our democracy’s voting process is the polling place. It should—and it must—be accessible to all,” the report states. “When it is not, the barriers to participation can be high. Moving or closing a polling place— particularly without notice or input from communities—disrupts our democracy.”

Source: Report: More than 1600 Polling Places Have Closed Since the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act – Mother Jones

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Millions of Black Voters Are Being Purged From Voter Rolls, Often Illegally: Report

Residents cast their votes at a polling place on November 4, 2014, near Ferguson, Mo.       Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

As the end of Barack Obama’s presidency grew closer, election officials began preparing for the next election. Instead of strengthening the security of voting machines and making voting more accessible to citizens, states did the exact opposite. But they didn’t just make it harder to vote. For hundreds of thousands of registered, eligible voters across the nation, they made it impossible.

Voter Purges (pdf), a new report by the Brennan Center, highlights the systematic purging of voters from rolls by state and local officials around the country. These are not random, isolated cases. It is a methodical effort that disproportionately affects minority voters. Even worse, no one seems to care.

In 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which was an attempt to make registering to vote easier by offering driver license applicants the opportunity to register to vote. The law also prevented states from purging voters unless they met certain requirements.

But the Brennan report highlights how states have skirted the law and purged voters without punishment. And after the Supreme Court dismantled the requirements for voter pre-clearance with the Shelby v. Holder rulingstates with histories of voter discrimination no longer required federal pre-clearance before purging rolls.

Between 2014 and 2016, 16 million registered voters were removed from state rolls, 33 percent more than were moved between 2006 and 2008. For the election of 2012 and 2016, the Brennan Center estimates that two million fewer voters would have been purged if those states had to apply by the provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Some of the egregious highlights of the report include:

  • In June 2016, the Arkansas secretary of state gave a list of 7,700 names to county clerks to be removed from the rolls because of supposed felony convictions. That list included people who had never been convicted of a felony and formerly convicted persons whose voting rights had been restored.
  • In 2013, Virginia deleted 39,000 names from its voting roster. In some counties, the mistakes on the list were as high as 17 percent.
  • A federal court halted a purge after Hurricane Katrina after justices found that one-third of the purged names came from a majority black parish in of New Orleans.
  • After the Shelby v. Holder decision, Texas purged 363,000 more voters than it did the election cycle before the case. Georgia purged 1.5 million more voters.
  • Alabama, Indiana and Maine have illegally instituted the widely ridiculed Crosscheck system (on which Charles D. Ellison previously reported on for The Root) that purges voters without federally-mandated notification.
  • In 1986, one Louisiana official remarked that a voter purge effort “could really keep the black vote down considerably.”
  • Instead of checking out inequities, Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice has been urging states to do more purging.

Almost every type of voter purge disproportionately affects black voters and voters of color. Some states purge rolls based solely on names but non-whites are more likely to have the same names. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.3 percent of Hispanic people and 13 percent of black people have one of the 10 most common surnames, compared to 4.5 percent of white people.

Black and Hispanic voters are more likely to move, often in the same jurisdiction, but voter purges based on address eliminate them from voting. Officials also use “voter caging” which intentionally sends mail to verify addresses in a format that cannot be forwarded, leading to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.

African Americans are also more likely to have felony convictions, and elderly and minority voters are more likely to be incapacitated, all reasons for which someone can be purged from a voter roll.

Almost every study ever done on this issue shows that in-person voter fraud is almost nonexistent. Instead, these purges are intentional efforts to restrict voting rights.

Some of the easily-implementable recommendations to rectify this travesty include:

  1. Public notifications of impending voter purges.
  2. Making purge lists available to the public, including at polling places.
  3. Accepting provisional ballots from purged voters.
  4. Universal voter registration forms and rules.
  5. Stop using failure to vote as a reason to purge voters.

All of these policies seem like they would be universally-accepted fixes for a flaw in our democracy.

But then again, not having a Russian agent for a President seems like a smart thing too. How’s that working out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of “it.” Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.    Posts

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Voter Repression Is a Serious Problem: It Is Time for a New Freedom Summer | Portside

Voter Repression Is a Serious Problem: It Is Time for a New Freedom Summer

Republicans have created immense obstacles to registration – reduced the number of days for early voting, eliminated same-day registration – all with the clear and unadulterated aim of sinking, if not eliminating the Democratic electorate. What is striking is that, not very far behind their bogus arguments regarding alleged voter fraud, Republicans are close to admitting, or will outright admit, that their aim is to get potential Democratic voters to remain home.
Bill Fletcher
June 5, 2016

I found myself reading about the impact of voter suppression, i.e., the efforts to inhibit voter registration and voter participation that have been orchestrated by Republican-dominated state legislatures since 2009.  Voter suppression actually has a long and ignominious history in the USA, but the 1965 Voting Rights Act cramped such efforts.  The US Supreme Court’s neutering of the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v Holder , opened up myriad possibilities for Republican shenanigans in the electoral arena.  Republicans have created immense obstacles to registration –  reduced the number of days for early voting,  eliminated same-day registration – all with the clear and unadulterated aim of sinking, if not eliminating the Democratic electorate.  What is striking is that, not very far behind their bogus arguments regarding alleged voter fraud, Republicans are close to admitting, or will outright admit, that their aim is to get potential Democratic voters to remain home.

    Voter registration, instead of being encouraged and made more accessible, has become exceedingly difficult.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, for instance, registration forms have to be submitted within a certain number of days after they have been filled out, otherwise those who have conducted the registrations are penalized.  Registration forms can only be submitted to the clerk in the county of residence of the registrant rather than being submitted elsewhere and channeled appropriately.  And, in this age of identity theft, registrants are required to provide their full social security number.  In each state where voter suppression efforts are underway there are similar stories.

    Contemporary voter suppression parallels the practices carried out when Reconstruction was overthrown in 1877 and the ‘counterrevolution of property,’ to use W.E.B. Dubois’s term, succeeded.  In many states, possession of property was established as an eligibility requirement to cast a ballot. This counterrevolution resulted in the disenfranchisement of African American voters and, with them, many poor whites.  This was precisely the objective of “property” when faced with a populist rising against the gross inequalities of the Gilded Era and the post-Reconstruction period.

    Today’s voter suppression gained traction in the aftermath of the election of Barack Obama as President.  For the right-wing it was an “OMG” moment that they sought to undermine by any means necessary.  As we are now aware, Senator Mitch McConnell united the Republicans around a strategy of obstruction in Congress, aiming to derail any Obama initiative.  In the field, however, the objective was deeper and more demonic.  The aim was to shrink the electorate.  Some Republican ideologues went so far as to argue that the electorate should be reduced and that there were certain people who should not be able to vote because of ignorance or poverty.  But the mass of Republican legislators crafted a strategy that based itself on the argument that there was voter fraud that had to be blocked through new and challenging initiatives in voter registration and voting.  The arguments were as absurd as they were racist.  There was no evidence of anything approaching significant voter fraud, yet the Republicans played upon racist myths and fears among many whites to create an atmosphere where such measures were taken seriously.

    There have been repeated and significant efforts to block voter suppression efforts.  Litigation has been the main tactic and, in some cases, there have been victories.  But with every victory, the pox still spreads as the Republicans prove, once again, to be relentless in their pursuit of total power in the electoral arena.  The question that progressives face is one of what to do?

II

    Progressives and leftists have often not taken matters of voter registration particularly seriously, at least in the post-1965 Voting Rights Act era.  Voter registration and voting rights more generally were relegated to the liberals and non-partisan do-gooders.  While there were leftists, such as Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, who saw the importance of voting rights and registration, they tended to be more the exception than the rule.  Added to this problem, the Democratic Party establishment regularly downplayed voter registration, ignoring the importance of expanding the electorate.  Only in certain campaigns, e.g., during the Black-led electoral upsurge of the 1980s and the Obama campaign in 2008, was voter registration recognized to be of strategic importance in shifting the balance of forces.

    In election years 2010, 2012 and 2014 various organizations, including but not limited to labor unions, mobilized against selective voter suppression efforts, particularly those conducted on Election Day.  Yet the waves of assaults by the Republicans have not ceased and, with the crippling of the Voting Rights Act, the blood lust of the Republicans has become enhanced.  For these reasons, the approach of progressives towards voter suppression needs to be reconsidered.

    The battle for voting rights in the 20th century was not one mainly handled in the courts; it was handled in the ‘court’ of public opinion, specifically the streets.  The dramatization of such efforts in the commercial media whether in the film Selma or in the recent HBO film All the Way reminds us of how repressive election laws once were in many parts of the USA (including but not limited to the South and the Southwest).  It was the work of activists, most especially those associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that made a tremendous difference.  Their work included the development of Citizenship Schools (done in conjunction with the Highlander Folk School), registration efforts and outright protests.  This was exceedingly dangerous work making the courage of the activists that much more exceptional.

    After 1965, there was an assumption in much of the liberal and progressive world that the Voting Rights Act was largely untouchable and that this would be a fortification to restrain the advances of the barbarians of the political Right.  Unfortunately, the barbarians circumvented the fortifications and are now in an all-out assault on democratic rights.  A reliance on court action will be insufficient.

    Which brings us to an approach in the 2016 election year.  Perhaps what is needed is a “Freedom Summer + Fall,” i.e., a major, multi-pronged mobilization that openly challenges voter suppression.  Such an effort would necessitate large numbers of volunteers and the collaboration of organizations.  Yet it is eminently do-able.  Consider:

  1. This effort would need to run from this very moment through Election Day (actually though the certification of the elections).

  2. Voter suppression statutes would need to become the subject of litigation on a very broad scale.  The undemocratic nature of them would need to be demonstrated and court action would be one particular platform.

  3. Voter registration efforts would need to be enhanced with shuttles to get communities to registration sites.  Student volunteers would need to be enlisted as part of a massive registration initiative.

  4. Where local officials obstruct or block registration, there would need to be protests.  Such protests might take the form of well-publicized sit-ins, or they might be massive stand-ins.

  5. Coordinated days of actions would be needed in states raising the issue of voter suppression, particularly documenting the lack of evidence to justify any such efforts.

  6. Absentee voting would need to be encouraged.  This is very important particularly in those states where early voting has been eliminated or cut altogether.

  7. There would need to be a focus on obtaining appropriate documentation.  This might be among the most difficult challenges since there are many people who do not have birth certificates; lost their birth certificates; or for whatever reason are lacking the requisite information.  Create media events that highlight the plight of those who do not have and are unable to obtain the appropriate documentation.

  8. In states that permit gun identification in order register to vote, organized efforts would be needed to secure such identification.

  9. Weekly demonstrations at the Republican National Committee would need to be mounted to raise awareness of this assault on democracy.

  10. Pressure would need to be brought on governors to issue executive orders restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in those states that permanently eliminate them, e.g., the April 2016 executive order by Virginia Governor McAuliffe.

A tremendous danger facing us is that of passively accepting the results of voter suppression efforts.  Longer-term the counterattack on voter suppression will need to be at the level of state legislators.  Progressive candidacies will need to run on the platform of overturning such efforts.  Yet this will only happen when there is the sense of a mass movement.  To the extent to which voter suppression is treated more like a nuisance that is addressed exclusively by litigation, we will lose the battle for democracy and the forces of authoritarianism will have their day in the sun.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist.  He is the author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us!’ And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him atwww.billfletcherjr.com.

Source: Voter Repression Is a Serious Problem: It Is Time for a New Freedom Summer | Portside

Witness From the Bridge l OH State Senator Nina Turner

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What Happens If The Voting Rights Act Loses In The Supreme Court

What Happens If The Voting Rights Act Loses In The Supreme Court

By Ian Millhiser

Feb 26, 2013

We do not have to guess what the states currently subject to a key provision of the Voting Rights Act will do if the Supreme Court grants their wish to have that provision declared unconstitutional — top Republicans in those states have already told us. In a brief filed last August, Republican attorneys general from six of the states covered, at least in part, by Section 5 of the Voting Right Act complained that this landmark legislation is all that stands between them and implementing a common method of disenfranchising minority voters. Two of those states, South Carolina and Texas, admit that the Voting Rights Act stopped them from implementing a voter suppression law their governors already signed.

Of course, the voter suppression law at issue here are so-called “voter ID” provisions that require voters to present photo ID at the polls. Their supporters clam publicly that these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud at the polls, but this claim is absurd. Voters are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud. A study of Wisconsin voters found that just 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of such fraud.

What these laws do accomplish is disenfranchisement; even conservative estimates suggest that they prevent 2 to 3 percent of registered voters from casting a ballot. This voter disenfranchisement is particularly pronounced among low-income voters, students and — a fact that is particularly salient for any discussion of the Voting Rights Act — racial minorities.

The Voting Rights Act, of course, protects against laws that expose minority voters to greater burdens than other voters. Section 5, the provision that the Supreme Court will consider tomorrow, requires parts of the country that have historically engaged in voter suppression to “pre-clear” any new voting laws with the Justice Department or a federal court in DC to make sure they do not impose racial burdens. Thus, voter suppression laws such as voter ID can be blocked before an election is held, preventing officials from being elected to office by an electorate that has been unlawfully culled of minority voters.

Lest there be any doubt, voter ID laws are just one of many tactics Republican lawmakers have turned to in order to reshape the electorate into something more likely to elect their favored candidates. Cuts to early voting days did not simply lead to long lines in states like Florida, they were also a direct attack on minority voters. As one Republican consultant admitted after last November’s election, “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of [the Florida GOP’s] targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves.” Voter purges targeted Latino voters. Republican laws restricting voter registration also cut into the minority vote, as “Hispanic and African-American voters are approximatelytwice as likely to register to vote through a voter registration drive as white voters.”

As President Lyndon Johnson warned when he originally proposed the Voting Rights Act to Congress, vote suppressors will bring “every device of which human ingenuity is capable” to deny the right to vote. This is why it is so important that Section 5 exist. Advocates of disenfranchisement are smart, nimble and capable of subtlety. The law must have a mechanism to block their efforts from taking effect before an election is held using illegal, vote suppressing procedures.

Indeed, it is deeply distressing that the Supreme Court would consider weakening the Voting Rights Act at the exact moment that Republican lawmakers are engaged in what President Bill Clinton called the most “determined effort to limit the franchise” since Jim Crow. What America needs today is not weaker voting rights. At the very least, we need to keep the protections we already have and expand Section 5′s coverage to include many Republican-controlled states that are not currently subject to its rule — an expansion the Voting Rights Act explicitly contemplates under what is known as the “bail-in” provision of the law. The lawmakers who reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 could not have anticipated that Republican lawmakers in many states would begin a voter suppression campaign a few years later, but the drafters of the act were wise to include a provision that enables it to adapt to these circumstances.

Above all, it is hard not to escape the fact that, at the exact same time that the Republican Party is leading the charge to enact state-level voter suppression laws, the five justices most likely to strike down much of America’s most important voting rights law are the Court’s only Republicans. It will be difficult for the Roberts Court to maintain the perception that it places politics before the law if hands such a gift to Republican lawmakers bent on disenfranchisement.

 

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On Voter Suppression: Supreme Court rejects 30 year GOP effort at Voter Intimidation

On Voter Suppression: Supreme Court rejects 30 year GOP effort at Voter Intimidation

January 14, 2013

By 

The Republican effort to end a 30 year old court order which attempts to prevent intimidation of minority voters  was unsuccessful. The Supreme Court has rejected their appeal without comment from the Justices.

Image: Think Progress

Image: Think Progress

 

The AP reports, “The order stems from a lawsuit filed by Democrats in New Jersey in 1981 that objected to a “ballot security” program the RNC ran in minority neighborhoods. Republicans said the order hampers efforts to combat voter fraud, but U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise said voter intimidation remains a threat and preventing it outweighs the potential danger of fraud. The court action is unrelated to legal challenges to Republican-inspired voter identification laws in the 2012 campaign.”

This is a big win against voter suppression. The ballot security program posted armed officers in the task force, from the ranks of off-duty county deputy sheriffs and local police, placing them at the polls with foreboding signs, who prominently displayed revolvers, two-way radios, and BSTF armbands. BSTF patrols challenged and questioned voters at the polls.

This sounds similar to True the Vote, sans the armbands. With partisan efforts to secure the polls and question mostly minority voters while claiming it’s only an effort to combat voter fraud, seems disingenuous — especially when True the Vote is a Tea Party concept which only identifies Democrats in voter fraud.

In short: GOP, you’re not the police of me!

Thanks to Barbara Arnwine, National Director, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for passing this piece over to us.  Barbara is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, along with other members of the LCCRUL staff.

Arwine

 

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