Aggressive Use of ‘Ballot Security’ Measures Raising Civil Rights Concerns

The growing use of “ballot security” measures aimed at limiting voter fraud has raised civil rights concerns because of their potential to disrupt the voting process, to disproportionately target minority voters, and to cause voter confusion and intimidation, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice.

The report analyzes four tactics that are typically used in “ballot security” measures:

  • Voter challenges:  formal challenges lodged by political operatives or private citizens to the eligibility of persons presenting themselves to vote, either at the polls or prior to Election Day; 
  • Voter caging: efforts to identify and disenfranchise improperly registered voters solely on the basis of an undeliverable mailing;
  • Voter intimidation: conduct that intimidates or threatens voters into voting a certain way or refraining from voting; and
  • Deceptive practices: the dissemination of misleading information regarding the time, place, or manner of an election.

There is concern in the civil rights community that many of these tactics, including the use of foreclosure lists, are being overwhelmingly used in areas with high concentrations of Black and Latino voters.

The negative consequences of these “ballot security” actions are unduly high considering that actual voter fraud is extremely rare.  According to the Brennan Center, an American is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

“The focus on the non-existent problem of fraud should give us pause,” said Kristen Clarke, co-director of the political participation group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “It serves as a pretext for those standing behind questionable ballot integrity and poll watcher initiatives that could reduce voter turnout and participation, most especially among Black and Latino voters. These efforts stand as a threat to our democracy.”