Report: Minority Voters Vulnerable Ahead of Midterm Elections

Voting Rights 08.7,14

Forty-nine years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the National Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR) on August 6 released a report documenting persistent voting discrimination in the United States, finding that states previously subject to Section 5 preclearance under the VRA (particularly Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Georgia) continue to be the worst offenders.

“Protecting Minority Voters: Our Work is Not Done” objects to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which claimed that greater minority voter participation meant strong voting protections were no longer necessary. According to the report, there were about 332 lawsuits and denials of Section 5 preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice between 1995-2014, and another 10 non-litigation settlements. These successful voting rights challenges illustrate the ongoing problem of voting discrimination and the need for a revitalized VRA.

Some other key findings in the report include:

  • Voting discrimination takes a variety of forms. Discriminatory redistricting plans and at-large elections continue to prompt the most successful lawsuits under Section 2 of the VRA. However, there were also 48 successful lawsuits and 10 non-litigation settlements relating to language translation and assistance.
  • The federal observer program provided an important deterrence against voter discrimination with 10,702 observers deployed from 1995-2012. As a result of the Shelby County decision, the DOJ is no longer deploying federal observers to the formerly covered states.

Other recent publications documenting voting discrimination include: