By Julissa Catalan
The National Commission on Voting Rights issued a report disclosing the states in which underrepresented communities continue to experience voter discrimination.
According to the report, Protecting Minority Voters: Our Work is Not Done, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texasthe four states previously protected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Actnow have the freedom to practice voter discrimination following last year’s Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder.
While the Supreme Court points to escalating rates in Black and Latino voting and registration as well as the success of Black and Latino political candidates as a defense, the report proves that their coverage formula is “unconstitutionally outdated” and therefore still promotes racial discrimination in voting.
“This report shows that racial discrimination in voting is a widespread and ongoing problem,” said Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which runs the National Commission on Voting Rights (NCVR). “In the past 20 years, we’ve seen repeated attempts by states and localities with the worst records of voting discrimination to make it harder for minorities to register and cast their ballots. The record presents a powerful case for why we need to continue to provide protections to all voters.”
The report provides a list of discriminatory voting practices from 1995 to the present, including: legal cases filed on behalf of Black and Latino voters, an in-depth look at voting laws that affect underrepresented communities, as well as excerpts from witness testimonies at 25 public hearings organized by the NCVR.
The report’s key findings include:
- Voting discrimination is a frequent and ongoing problem in the United States. There were about 332 successful voting-rights lawsuits and denials of Section 5 preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice and another 10 non-litigation settlements.
- Formerly covered states in the South and Southwest stand out with some of the worst records of voting discriminationwith Texas being at the top of the list. Texas stands out as having a remarkably high level of documented voting discrimination, including multiple state-level violations. And the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina were not far behind.
- Voting discrimination takes a variety of forms. Discriminatory redistricting plans and at-large elections continue to prompt the most successful lawsuits under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, there were also 48 successful lawsuits and 10 non-litigation settlements relating to language translation and assistance.
“Voting is a basic right and the foundation of a democratic nation,” said Dolores Huerta, a National Commissioner for the NCVR. “We have to do everything in our power to ensure that every voter is protected by law and practices regardless of their income level, age or ethnicity. Every vote counts and every voter should be given the assistance, education and access they need to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
“I believe that the report that we are releasing today provides clear evidence of the continued need for strong voting rights legislation to protect the rights of all Americans to cast a free and unfettered ballot,” said fellow National Commissioner Leon Russell.”These efforts are current and ongoing.”
Earlier this year, Republicans were said to be behind creating voting-restriction policies in swing states, negatively impacting the underrepresented community. The changeswhich have already taken place in states such as Ohio and Wisconsininclude doing away with weekend and late-night voting hours. Urban and Black voters who would typically caravan on a Sunday after church to the polls would lose their opportunity to vote. Blacks and Latinos also typically work odd and/or longer hours than most, while whites and wealthier people work a 9-to-5 schedule or have flexibility in their hours. The late hours and varying locations made it possible for low-income people to still cast their vote.
Further changes also include restrictions in the registration process, as well as in the options to cast a provisional or absentee vote.