Is Jim Crow Back? Racist Voter Laws Exclude 5 Million Blacks, Latinos From Polls

Voting-rights expert reveals how you can fight discrimination at the polls.

Voting-rights expert Keesha Gaskins speaks about new laws and racism at the pollsVoter ID laws subvert the election process: Research from the Brennan Center for Justice shows that the regulations disproportionately impact Blacks and Latinos, while a new study from the National Congress of American Indians reports that these laws can decrease participation in Native American and Alaska Native communities. How can you fight discrimination at the polls? Voting-rights expert Keesha Gaskins tells you what you can do in the video below.

Gaskins, who is senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program at the New York University School of Law, spoke at DiversityInc’s recent Diversity-Management Best Practices From the Best of the Best event in New York City, where guest CEO and senior-executive speakers presented their best-practice strategies for implementing successful diversity management.

During her keynote, Gaskins explains how the laws impede on Americans’ voting rights and compares them with the era of Jim Crow laws (scroll down to view the video table of contents):

“As a nation, we found ourselves in the 2011–2012 legislative session seeing a retrenchment in voting rights that we have never seen before in this nation, except for one time: Jim Crow,” says Gaskins. “In that one single legislative session, between 18 and 20 months ago, 41 states introduced 180 restrictive voter laws, imposing restrictions on early voting, absentee voting, proof of citizenship at voter registration, proof of ID at polling, reducing opportunities for persons with felony convictions to be re-enfranchised, and third-party voter-registration activities.”

She continues, “Jim Crow was from 1865 to 1967. During that period about 400 laws were passed restricting access by people of color—not just African-Americans, but American Indians as well as Asian Americans—from accessing systems, whether it was housing, voting, marriage, by operation of law. When you look at laws that specifically applied to voting, it’s about 40 laws from 1865 to 1967. In the 2011-2012 legislative session, we passed 25 laws that restricted voting. We have not seen retrenchment in voting rights in this country since Jim Crow, and we have never seen it at this speed in this country, ever. It is absolutely the opposite of the way we’ve been trending toward universal suffrage. At its high point, the Brennan Center estimated up to five million voters had the potential to be disenfranchised.”

Video Minutes:

0:00:00 About the Brennan Center
0:02:43 Democracy as a Group Process
0:04:41 Growth of Underrepresented Groups
0:09:34 One Person, One Vote
0:12:26 Increasing Amount of Unrest
0:15:04 Rise of Restrictive Voting Laws
0:18:35 Who Doesn’t Have a Photo ID?
0:21:14 Misconceptions About Voter Fraud
0:24:43 Difficulty of Obtaining Photo ID
0:26:45 Stopping Restrictive Voting Laws
0:30:05 Political Gamesmanship in Electoral System
0:31:03 Legislative Changes
0:33:52 Judicial Changes
0:37:03 Possible Reforms
0:42:02 Corporate Role in Reforms
0:43:30 Helping People With Disabilities
0:45:07 Voter Intimidation, Misinformation

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