AUDIO: Civil Rights Experts Discuss Poll Closure Epidemic, Demand Congress Restore Voting Rights Now

New report finds 1,688 poll closures in states with histories of voter discrimination  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Kristen Voorhees, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, [email protected], 202.548.7166
Phoebe Plagens, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., [email protected], 212.965.2235
David Card, National Disability Rights Network, [email protected], 202.408.9514 x 122
Ana Maria Rosato, ACLU Georgia, [email protected]ga.org, 404.302.0128
Ivy Le, [email protected], 512.474.5073

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference Education Fund held a telebriefing today to discuss the staggering number of polling place closures in states with histories of racial discrimination in just the past six years. The Education Fund’s recently released report, “Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote,” found that 13 states shuttered 1,688 polling places since the 2012 general election cycle.

“Decisions to shutter polling places are often made quietly and without public notice, making intervention virtually impossible,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “And without preclearance protections, states are under no obligation to evaluate the discriminatory impacts of such closures. Congress must pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, or H.R. 4, to restore the preclearance system of the Voting Rights Act and ensure we have the tools we need to address racial discrimination in voting.”

“In the absence of federal protections like Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, we continue to see a breadth of voting changes — on large and small scales — that are damaging to communities  of color across our country,” said John Cusick, litigation fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). “Polling place changes often fly under the radar. They can be benign; but they also can be harmful to communities. Any considerations of polling place changes, however, must at least be preceded by adequate notice, scrutiny, and opportunities for communities to propose alternative places that keep voting accessible and hospitable.”

“People with disabilities will not back down from demanding full enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making all of America’s polling places accessible, and ending voter suppression in all its forms,” said Michelle Bishop, voting rights specialist at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN). “We know our allies across civil rights movements will stand with us in solidarity, and we will not be silent when any marginalized voters are being challenged or suppressed. The Voting Rights Act must be fully restored.”

“Our elections officials are supposed to defend and protect our democracy,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Instead, many have been aggressively pushing poll closures in communities of color with phony pretexts.”

“Texas has a long and dark history of voter suppression, often inventing new ways to restrict the franchise that are subsequently adopted in other states,” said Beth Stevens, voting rights program director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Although the Voting Rights Act and Supreme Court decisions during the 20th Century slowed this pattern for nearly 50 years, Texas has reverted to form since Shelby County, enacting a host of measures that sharply restrict the right to vote. Polling place closures are among the most pernicious of these changes because these decisions receive little attention at the time they are made but have a large and disproportionate impact on poor and racial minority communities when they try to vote.”

The audio recording of this call is available here.

The full report can be found at democracydiverted.org.

 

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit civilrights.org/edfund/.

Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP), the nation’s largest providers of legal advocacy services for people with disabilities. NDRN promotes the network’s capacity, ensures that P&As/CAPs remain strong and effective by providing training and technical assistance, and advocates for laws protecting the civil and human rights of all people with disabilities.

The ACLU of Georgia is dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through litigation, lobbying, and communications, the ACLU of Georgia works to preserve and enhance the rights of all citizens of Georgia without political partisanship. Foremost among these rights are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under law, and the right to privacy.

We are Texas Lawyers for Texas Communities. The Texas Civil Rights Project believes in a state where everyone can live with dignity, justice, and without fear. In its twenty-eight year history, TCRP has brought thousands of strategic lawsuits and spearheaded advocacy to protect and expand voting rights, challenge injustices in our broken criminal justice system, and advance racial and economic justice for historically marginalized communities.