Destroying the right to vote: Nine leading racial justice organizations release report and find significant violations

Destroying the Vote
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP – Photo courtesy of NAACP

 

Special to The Dallas Examiner

 

Washington, D.C. –  The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative, a coalition of national racial justice and civil rights organization, released its groundbreaking voting rights report We Vote, We Count, Nov. 25. The report centered on the voices of people of color and described accounts of voter interference that disproportionately affects communities of color, gathered through “People’s Hearings” in select states over several months this year.

Witnesses at the “People’s Hearings” framed the right to vote in two ways: the right to be regarded and recognized as an eligible voter and the right to cast a ballot without undue burden.

The report also detailed personal experiences with voter infringement and offered recommendations on how to combat this issue. These stories were collected during hearings held in several cities in 2019 and listening sessions by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on House Administration, through national court cases, and from submissions through WeVoteWeCount.org, a website where voters can share their past experiences facing interference at the polls, difficulties registering to vote, and other barriers to voting.

“The right for African Americans to vote has consistently been under attack, and voter infringement tactics continue to evolve – from intimidation at the ballot box to outright election interference from foreign governments,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “With the Census approaching in 2020 and less than a year out from the next presidential election, the NAACP will continue to fight back against any threats to one of the key pillars of our democracy.”

The Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013 ruled the part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that stated that states had to get voting rules approved by the federal government was unconstitutional. Since then, several states, including Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and many others have instituted restrictive voting measures that unfairly target and impact communities of color, impeding their abilities to register and vote on national and local issues.

Four stories stand out as an example of issues surrounding the right to vote.

A young Black man in Texas was denied the right to vote because he didn’t have a state issued ID – which he didn’t have because he was homeless and could not obtain an ID without an address and didn’t have the money to pay for the fees get an ID.

Witnesses at the field hearings in North Carolina testified that the state not only passed its controversial voter ID law, but also eliminated same-day registration and safeguards to protect out-of-precinct voting. These changes decreased the ability of “voters to cast a ballot and have it properly counted,” the report stated.

In Alabama, more than 31 ID voting spots in primarily Black and poor counties were closed down. “Alabama passed a strict ID requirement, hurting over 300,000 voters,” said Alabama Commissioner Sheila Tyson in her testimony. “They knew exactly what they were doing when they did it.”

Witnesses in North Dakota characterized a new voter ID law that required voters to show photo identification that includes their name, birth date and residential address as carrying an “anti-Indian undertone.” This law disproportionally impacts Native voters living on reservations where they do not have residential street addresses.

“The concerted effort of states to make voting more difficult for communities of color is a blatant attempt to prevent these communities from building power. Black and Brown voters have responded with resolve. They are demanding policymakers take action to reduce barriers to the ballot and are organizing against voter discrimination. We stand with these communities in calling for elections that ensure every American can have their vote count,” says Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project National Office.

The report also includes recommendations for mitigating voter discrimination. These solutions underscored the complex intersection between race/ethnicity, socioeconomic circumstances and access to the ballot. The witnesses at the “People’s Hearings” also acknowledged the need for better cooperation between affected voters and federal, state and local governmental entities. These include:

  • Improve training for poll workers.
  • Expand same-day registration and voting.
  • Enhance language accessibility at polling locations.
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act.
  • End felony disenfranchisement.
  • Honor federal treaties with Native American tribes and nations.
  • Enhance language accessibility at polling locations.

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