WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights today released a new report, The Persistent Challenge of Voting Discrimination, which details nearly 150 recent voting violations. The report was released in advance of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, and demonstrates the urgent need to find solutions to protect the right to vote for all Americans, and for Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act before November’s elections.
“Voting is the language of American democracy: if you don’t vote, you don’t count,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “While our country has made progress in the 50 years since Freedom Summer, this report shows that discrimination at the ballot box is unfortunately still alive and well across America. It is time for Congress to pass modern, 21st century protections found in the Voting Rights Amendment Act to combat this documented discrimination and protect the fundamental right to vote for all.”
The new report details 148 separate instances of racial discrimination in voting since 2000, noting that each case, by its nature, impacts hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of voters. It also includes a separate section detailing potentially discriminatory voting changes that have been enacted just since the Supreme Court’s decision weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in June 2013. The discriminatory activities in the report are drawn from multiple public sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) website and published judicial opinions.
Some key findings of the new report, The Persistent Challenge of Voting Discrimination, include:
· Racial discrimination in voting remains a significant problem in our democracy. As shown from the 148 separate instances of voting violations since 2000, nearly 50 years after the enactment of the VRA, racial discrimination in voting remains a persistent problem around the country. Additionally, the actual extent of racial discrimination in voting is likely much more extensive than this list may suggest, given that it is only documented instances.
· The problem of racial discrimination in voting is not limited to one region of the country. The examples outlined in this report document instances of voting discrimination from 30 states, representing every region of the country. Racial discrimination in voting remains concentrated in states that were previously covered under the VRA’s preclearance requirement, but is also present in other states and jurisdictions that have not had the same history of discrimination.
· Voting discrimination occurs most often in local elections. The vast majority of instances of racial discrimination since 2000 have occurred at the local level. The changes often concern the election of city, county or other local elected officials, where many of the contests are nonpartisan.
· Discrimination in voting manifests itself in many ways, and new methods continue to emerge. Voting discrimination occurs today in both overt and subtle forms, from cancelling a general election to the closure of polling places in heavily minority areas.
Many of the violations detailed in the report were also included in a document sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and members of the House Judiciary Committee in response to a request for documentation about the reality of ongoing discrimination against minority voters. House Judiciary Committee members are being urged to hold a hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (H.R. 3899/S. 1945), introduced with bipartisan support in January 2014, as a direct response to the Supreme Court’s opinion in the Shelby case. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act on June 25, 2014.