The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) recently announced it will be sending 500 observers to monitor the 2016 election. The announcement garnered praise from Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. Henderson also took the opportunity to call on the Supreme Court of the United States on its 2013 decision to invalidate a section of the Voting Rights Act:
“The need for additional election observers is paramount. The unprecedented weakening of the Voting Rights Act has led to a tidal wave of voter discrimination efforts nationwide and has required the United States to drastically scale back its own election monitoring program. Donald Trump has made the demonization of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities a hallmark of his campaign and continues to urge his supporters to challenge voters at polling sites.
“Congress needs to restore the VRA immediately. Additional monitors can never replace what we lost when the VRA was gutted but we have to use every possible means to ensure the integrity of this election isn’t compromised by racial discrimination and intimidation.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund is a nonprofit that advocates for civil and human rights. The organization, which has a 90.30 score on Charity Navigator, was founded in 1969 and serves as the research and education component of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. It works with member organizations of the civil and human rights coalition, as well as local and state-level community-based and direct service organizations. It offers knowledge and strategies regarding policy development, field organizing, leadership and advocacy training, material design and production, and communications outreach.
‘Warning Signs: The Potential Impact of Shelby County v. Holder on the 2016 General Election’
In June, The Leadership Conference Education Fund released “Warning Signs: The Potential Impact of Shelby County v. Holder on the 2016 General Election.” The report was published with support from several other groups advocating for voting rights, including nonprofits such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center for Justice and NALEO. It emphasizes the important influence minority voters could have over this presidential election and addresses the roadblocks they may face in numerous states.
Specifically, the report mentions North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Georgia. Since the release of the report, some of the aforementioned states have ruled at least temporarily in favor of minority voters.
Georgia in particular has made numerous headlines recently for its strict policies when it comes to voting. Georgia recently joined Alabama and Kansas in ruling that voters do not need to show proof of citizenship to register to vote. However, a lawsuit filed in September revealed that more than 42,500 voter registration applications, the vast majority of which were for minorities, have been either suspended or rejected in the state of Georgia since July 2013 due to a strict law requiring names to be identical to a state database for driver’s licenses or Social Security.
While voter ID laws often come to mind as disenfranchising minority voters, The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s report also points to other discriminatory strategies Georgia has employed: “Georgia has also attempted to make voting harder by introducing cuts to early voting, closing polling places, and, in at least two cases, moving the early voting locations into police stations. According to LDF, a city council member in Morgan County, which closed more than a third of its polling places in 2013, believed that ‘the closures would disfranchise low-income voters and voters of color, many of whom lack cars and would have difficulty reaching the reassigned polling sites.'”
And without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, it is impossible to know just how many communities are facing discrimination, according to the report.
“The Voting Rights Advancement Act would not only restore preclearance protections to voters in states with the worst histories of discrimination, it would have a national impact, requiring preclearance for any proposed electoral change historically associated with discrimination.
“As we approach the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, we’re seeing the perfect storm of a diversifying electorate and a set of states and localities responding by implementing a broad array of voter discrimination tactics.”