WASHINGTON – Today, voting rights advocates and voters hosted a press call to discuss the impact of the Shelby County v. Holder decision on the 2016 presidential election and to kick off a week of action to restore the Voting Rights Act in advance of the third anniversary of Shelby, which falls on June 25.
On the call, participants released a new report, Warning Signs, which profiles voter suppression activities in states that were once covered by Section 5 of the VRA and are host to competitive 2016 contests for 84 Electoral College votes, two Senate seats, and one governor’s seat. The report finds that, since Shelby, all five of these states – North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – have engaged in deceptive and sophisticated practices to disenfranchise voters that will have an impact on the 2016 election. The report is a collaborative effort of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and relies on recent reports and materials from the ACLU, the Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the NALEO Educational Fund.
The call also discussed a nationwide week of action to restore the VRA, endorsed by more than 140 organizations with activities in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia, Texas, and many more.
Below are key quotes from the call.
“There’s clearly a demand to restore the VRA. There’s also a great need. In our new report, we identified five states that have competitive contests for 84 Electoral College votes, two Senate seats, and one governor’s seat. And with the presidency and control of the Senate at stake, the temptation to shave points off of the participation rate of voters of color has proven too great to resist. Since Shelby, all five of these states – North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – have engaged in deceptive and sophisticated efforts to disenfranchise voters that will have an impact on the 2016 election.”
Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which has played a key role in fighting voter suppression in North Carolina
“What we are seeing in North Carolina is that more people are being disenfranchised than the margin that decided our recent Governor’s election and other recent elections in our state. These voter suppression measures passed in the wake of Shelby – like ending same day registration, ending out-of-precinct voting, and others – are truly having an impact on our ability to vote. We hope that these measures will not be in place in November 2016.”
Marion Warren, Registrar of Voters for the City of Sparta in Hancock County, Georgia
“Actions taken by county officials have been completely detrimental to the minority population, and the only thing stopping them is the outcry from the public and the fact that we now have the Department of Justice looking into this. The situation in Hancock County is particularly bad – it seems it’s harder for a minority to vote now in the state of Georgia than it was in 1965.”
Monica Cooper, an Arizona voter disenfranchised during the 2016 primary and a plaintiff in a voting rights lawsuit against Arizona and Maricopa County
“On Election Day, I depended on Dial-a-Ride [a paratransit service] to get to and from the polling place, and was not able to vote because the lines were so long it took over two hours to get inside the polling place. I am very angry that I was not able to cast my ballot and that I was left out on Election Day.”
Juliana Huerena, another plaintiff in a voting rights lawsuit against Arizona and Maricopa County
“I’ve been voting in Maricopa County for nearly 10 years and I’ve never seen lines like this before. The line wrapped around the building. It was important to me to wait and cast my ballot, but I saw many people get frustrated after waiting for hours and eventually leave without voting. In the end, I waited four and a half hours to cast my ballot.”