The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights warns that voting rights for minorities around the country are in danger. The federal government isn’t doing anything to counteract it, especially since Republicans have most to lose in key midterm elections.
A report, released on Wednesday, cited strict voter ID laws; closing polling places; cutting early voting; and voting roll purges and challenges to eligibility are all impacting minority-voting rights.
These new laws and procedures are particularly occurring in states, mostly in the South, previously covered by The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), which outlawed discriminatory voting practices.
Academic studies and court cases have found that these laws affect minority voters at a higher rate than white voters.
Minorities “continue to suffer significant, and profoundly unequal, limitations on their ability to vote,” Catherine E. Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said, in a statement.
Last month, in rural Randolph County, Georgia a predominantly Black county the local board of elections proposed closing seven of the county’s nine polling places ahead of the midterm elections.
Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, is the Democratic nominee for governor, and her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, is white. After a push back from civil rights organizations calling it a blatant attempt to undercut Abrams, the elections board blocked a bid to close most polling places.
Following the 2010 election, “state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Overall, 23 states have new restrictions in effect.
The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder is cited in the report as a turning point for voting rights. The court ruled that a key part of the VRA a provision that required nine states to get federal approval before changing voting laws was outdated. Restrictions, in some states, were instituted immediately after the decision.
The report criticizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) under President Obama’s attorney general, and current Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.
Lhamon said federal protections are necessary.
“This level of ongoing discrimination confirms what was true before 1965, when the Voting Rights Act became law, and has remained true since 1965: Americans need strong and effective federal protections to guarantee that ours is a real democracy,” she said.
But, as in the case of Randolph County, Georgia, many Republican legislators and elections officials attempt to continue creating barriers to voting that precisely target core Democratic districts. According to Pew Research Center, “Democrats hold advantages in party identification among Blacks, Asians and Hispanics.”
Last month, President Trump told evangelical Christian leaders:
“You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve got,” and said their opponents were “violent people” who would overturn these gains “violently.”
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommends that Congress needs to amend the VRA to expand protections against discrimination. It called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do more to enforce existing protections.