Archived: Brennan Center for Justice Fights Voter ID Laws, Voter Intimidation

With Election Day drawing nearer, issues such as strict voter ID laws and the alleged case for voter fraud have been a very public debate. But some organizations focus on this battle all year round. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is actively fighting to provide equal voting rights for all Americans.

The Brennan Center for Justice, which has a 90.50 ranking on Charity Navigator, is a multifaceted, nonpartisan institute that describes itself as “part think tank, part advocacy group, part cutting-edge communications hub.” The Brennan Center plays an active role in court cases regarding numerous justice issues, including voting rights, and publishes research and analyses on topics related to voting rights.

Topics of research have included the myth of voter ID fraud and enforcing alleged “ballot security.” The Brennan Center uses facts and scholarly research to make the argument against these and other issues that disenfranchise minority voters.

“Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth,” published earlier this month, cites previous research that has repeatedly disproved the fears related to voter fraud, concluding that it amounts only to severely hindering minorities from voting. According to the publication, incidents of voter fraud are most often the result of “clerical errors or bad data matching practices” and in fact only occur at rates between 0.00004 and 0.00009 percent.

“As historians and election experts have catalogued, there is a long history in this country of racially suppressive voting measures — including poll taxes and all-white primaries — put in place under the guise of stopping voter fraud that wasn’t actually occurring in the first place,” the text states. “The surest way toward voting that is truly free, fair, and accessible is to know the facts in the face of such rhetoric.”

Last month the Brennan Center published “Dangers of ‘Ballot Security’ Operations: Preventing Intimidation, Discrimination, and Disruption,” which outlines the legal issues pertaining to voter intimidation following calls for “ballot security” amid the dismantling of strict voter ID laws. The publication cites numerous laws regarding voter intimidation and discrimination, stating that the law prevents discriminating against and/or intimidating voters, using police at polling sites and “conspiring to interfere with voters’ rights.”

“Challenges and other ballot-security measures are especially ripe for abuse in a racially charged environment,” the authors, Wendy Weiser and Adam Gitlin, state. “Recent court rulings against new state laws that would have made it harder to vote make clear that intentional discrimination in the voting context is still all too common.”

The authors also provide advice for voters who witness or fall victim to these practices: “Voters who experience or witness any of the discriminatory, intimidating, or deceptive conduct discussed above should immediately report the problem to election authorities and, when appropriate, to law enforcement authorities.”

Texas NAACP v. Steen

The Brennan Center is one of several organizations representing the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) in the high-profile Texas NAACP v. Steen case. Originally filed in September 2013, the suit fought against Texas’ SB 14, which the Brennan Center described as the strictest photo ID law in the country. The strict requirements imposed by the law disproportionately prevented Black and Hispanic people from voting. In August, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos approved an alternative plan that expands the list of allowable identification for citizens to cast a vote. According to the Brennan Center, “the order allows voters without SB 14 ID to cast a regular ballot after signing a declaration and presenting any one of a much broader list of documents — including utility bills, bank statements, paychecks, and any other government document containing a name and an address.”

The case is not yet over, however. Briefings will take place in November and December to review the plaintiffs’ argument that the ID laws racially discriminated. Oral arguments are scheduled to start in January.

About the Brennan Center for Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice was founded in 1995 by family members and former clerks of its namesake, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Brennan served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years and is described as “one of the most influential and liberal justices of the second half of the 20th century” on the Brennan Center for Justice’s website.

According to the Center’s mission page, “We work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all.”

Brennan Center President Michael Waldman has published numerous critically acclaimed books related to voting and other civil rights and other political issues. Waldman also served as Director of Speechwriting for President Bill Clinton from 1995 until 1999, writing or editing close to 2,000 speeches.

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