Fighting for the democracy we all deserve by securing the right to vote and dismantling barriers to the ballot box
Voting is the language of American democracy. The ability to participate in civic life — to have a voice in choosing the elected officials whose decisions impact our lives, families, and communities — is at the core of what it means to be an American.
At our nation’s founding, voting was enshrined only for educated white men who owned property. It took more than a century for the franchise to meaningfully expand to people of color, women, people with disabilities, people who are low-income, and Native Americans. Today, some elected leaders are still working to silence people who were historically denied access to the ballot box.
At The Leadership Conference, we are working to modernize elections and build a 21st century democracy — a democracy where all of our voices are heard. With our coalition partners, we inform the public, decision-makers, and the media about barriers to voting and advocate for policies that expand the right to vote, especially in communities of color. Voting, and the ability to participate in democracy, is a racial justice issue. It is a civil rights issue. And we are overdue for a change.
Restore the Voting Rights Act
On June 25, 2013, five justices on the Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that for decades protected voters in states with histories of pernicious voting discrimination. Now, in the absence of federal enforcement of voting rights, too many states are making it harder for people to vote. Our coalition is leading efforts to confront racial injustice in the electoral process and restore the heart of the Voting Rights Act to ensure every American can make their voice heard.
Increase Access to the Ballot Box
In the 2016 presidential election, 16 million Americans encountered problems voting, including long lines, inaccessible polling places, strict voter ID requirements, broken voting machines, purging from voter rolls, and voter registration complications. In total, 1.2 million people were unable to cast a ballot because of election administration errors. With our coalition partners and through our campaign, All Voting is Local, we are working at the federal and state levels to improve how elections are run. We fight for expanded opportunities to register and vote, including automatic, same-day, and online voter registration, as well as increased access to early and absentee voting and helping voters obtain ID, where required.
Achieve Rights Restoration
Once convicted of a felony, many people lose their right to vote. In 12 states, returning citizens lose their voting rights indefinitely for certain crimes, face an additional waiting period, or require a pardon in order to gain their right to vote back. The over-criminalization of communities of color by law enforcement and the legal system directly leads to disparities in voter access: One in every 13 voting-age African Americans cannot vote. These felony disenfranchisement provisions are vestiges of slavery and were adopted after the Civil War to undermine people of color’s power. We work with national and state partners to advocate for the restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions.
Vision for Democracy
The right to vote is a fundamental right and, as the Supreme Court noted more than a century ago, it is “preservative of all rights.” Historically, the franchise was not open to all citizens in the United States. Only with years of struggle and a demand for inclusivity was the right to vote expanded to include women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinxs, Native Americans, and young voters. There was a recognition that our country could not legitimately claim to be a representative democracy when it banned huge segments of the population from participating. Without a democracy that affords fair and equal opportunities for participation to everyone, we cannot make meaningful progress on urgent civil and human rights issues like justice reform, immigration, affordable health care, education equity, and economic security. When our democracy is in peril, so too are our civil rights.
Vision for Democracy: Fortifying the Franchise in 2020 and Beyond, offers concrete policy proposals to address the many urgent issues that confront our nation in order to ensure that we have a strong, functioning democracy. We must demand that our public officials work together to restore integrity and legitimacy to our institutions. It is imperative that we build a 21st century democracy that represents our growing and diverse nation – a democracy that welcomes every person’s voice and participation, no matter who they are and regardless of their race, color, language, or ability.
More than 150 Civil Rights Groups Demand Comprehensive Voting Rights Reform
WASHINGTON — The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 150 other civil rights organizations released their policy platform, “Vision for Democracy: Fortifying the Franchise in 2020 and Beyond” today, marking the overwhelming support for comprehensive voting rights reform within the civil rights community. The platform offers concrete policy recommendations to public officials, policy makers, and candidates for the 2020 state and federal elections and proposes a unified vision for ensuring that Americans have a strong, functioning democracy.
Facebook’s New Policy Endangers Democracy, Zuckerberg Pushes Ahead Anyway
WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks at Georgetown University today. The remarks follow recent policy changes announced by Facebook to exempt politicians’ speech from its Community Standards and its fact-checking program:
AUDIO: Civil Rights Experts Discuss Poll Closure Epidemic, Demand Congress Restore Voting Rights Now
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.
Our nation could not have predicted the last two years. But instead of cowering to the hateful rhetoric and anti-civil rights policies of the Trump administration, we are raising our voices to defend the America we all deserve.
All Voting Is Local
All Voting Is Local, housed within Access Democracy, an incubated project of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, fights to protect and expand the right to vote for every American. The campaign is grounded in the belief that how elections are run is a civil rights issue. Through a range of advocacy tools, the campaign helps communities, and particularly communities of color, identify and remedy barriers to the ballot box. In collaboration with civil and voting rights groups, we are building power among historically disenfranchised groups, redefining the narrative around voter access, and educating activist networks about monitoring and improving how elections are run. All Voting is Local launched in 2018 in five states: Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.