Voting Rights: The Fight Continues Today
Throughout our history, Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. And while we've made significant progress, even today there are those who seek to limit voting rights. In 2013 alone, 11 Republican-controlled states have taken action to limit people's Constitutional right to vote. But as Democrats, we're not backing down and will continue to fight to expand access to the polls for every eligible voter.
Republicans want to make it harder to vote.
* Five counties in Florida were included in pre-clearance
Alabama has a long history of voter suppression. As a result, through the Voting Rights Act, they were required by the Federal Government to get approval for any new election laws prior to their implementation. With Section 4 gone, the Republican-controlled legislature is moving quickly to implement restrictive Voter ID laws. These laws are now set to take effect in the 2014 primaries. If a voter does not have a government-issued ID, they will be forced to go through a lengthy process to gain access to the polls. This law will affect thousands of Alabamians and prevent them from exercising their fundamental right as Americans.
Alaska is currently engaged in redistricting. With the process underway and the recent Supreme Court decision eliminating Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, there is great potential for Republicans, who have long held power in Alaska, to engage in gerrymandering — an effort that could negatively impact native Alaskans.
Despite a veto from the state’s Governor, the Republican-controlled state legislature in Arkansas passed a strict voter ID law. The law will go into effect by January. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nationally as many as 11% of eligible voters lack some form of government-issued photo ID — with low-income voters, communities of color, and the elderly disproportionately affected. This law will affect thousands of Arkansans and make it harder for them to exercise their fundamental right as Americans.
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Republican Governor Rick Scott has resumed a controversial voter purge program aimed at taking alleged "non-citizens" off the voting rolls. This shameful attempt to shrink the electorate was the same tactic used in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election, when the Department of Justice sued the state of Florida for attempting to disqualify thousands of voters less than 90 days before an election. Of the 180,000 potential non-citizens identified for purging in 2012, less than 0.02% were actually ineligible. While Hispanic voters make up only 13 percent of Florida’s electorate, nearly 60 percent of those included in the initial list were Hispanic.
Mississippi has a long history of voter suppression. As a result, through the Voting Rights Act, they were required by the Federal Government to get approval for any new voting laws prior to their implementation. With Section 4 stricken, the Republican Secretary of State is moving quickly to implement restrictive laws. For example, for the first time in the state’s history, Mississippi voters will have to show some form of government-issued photo ID beginning in June 2014. The law will affect more than 60,000 eligible voters in Mississippi who do not have one of the required forms of ID.
Montana’s Republican-controlled Senate recently passed a measure that would put proposals on the 2014 ballot to restrict voter registration. These measures could lead to widespread voter confusion, as well as restrict the ability of third-party candidates to compete in general elections. Voters could be asked to eliminate the very popular same-day voter registration and put in place a new primary system that would pave the way for only majority parties to get candidates on the ballot.
New Hampshire’s confusing voter identification law is set to go into effect on September 1, 2013. Voters must present identification at the polls. Election officials will be instructed to accept any identification they believe to be "legitimate," — a measure that could lead to different interpretations and implementations of the law. Another provision of the law would require poll workers to photograph all voters on Election Day. This provision has been delayed two years due to legal and privacy concerns.
A month after the Supreme Court’s ruling, North Carolina passed the most restrictive voter suppression law in the country. Under this law, North Carolina:
- Implemented strict voter ID, including not allowing student IDs as a valid form of identification
- Eliminated same-day voter registration
- Cut early voting by a week
- Ended Sunday early voting.
This law is projected to affect at least 318,000 North Carolinians, who are disproportionately communities of color, students, the elderly, and low-income voters.
In the 2012 election cycle, Republicans passed a voter ID law. Because of its restrictive nature, the law was challenged and is currently part of a lawsuit. If the court upholds the law, Pennsylvania’s voter ID law will be one of the strictest in the nation, disproportionately affecting an estimated 750,000 eligible voters who lack government-issued photo ID.
Before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, the Department of Justice successfully blocked South Carolina’s voter identification law. However, with the Voting Rights Act dismantled, the law will now go into effect. For the first time in the state’s history, voters will be required to present some form of government-issued photo ID — a move that will overwhelmingly affect low-income voters and communities of color in the state. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nationally as many as 11% of eligible voters lack some form of government-issued photo ID.
Before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, the Department of Justice successfully blocked Texas’s voter identification law. However, with the Voting Rights Act dismantled, the law will now go into effect. This law has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Texans. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nationally as many as 11% of eligible voters could be affected by laws like this one.
Beginning on July 1, 2014, Virginia will have a strict voter ID requirement. All IDs must be current and valid, and have a photo of the voter. Prior to this law, voters only needed to show some form of non-photo ID in order to vote. This law is projected to disproportionately affect the state’s students, communities of color, and elderly populations. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, nationally as many as 11% of eligible voters could be affected by laws like this one.
We're fighting back — join us.
As Republicans work to limit voting rights, Democrats are fighting back:
- While the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the other sections remain intact. We are using every remaining tool in the VRA to combat restrictive laws. Under President Obama's leadership, the administration is already challenging laws in Texas.
- The President's new Commission on Electoral Administration is finding better ways to expand access to the polls. They are holding public hearings around the country to hear directly from the American people about voting rights violations that have occurred, and proposing solutions to address them going forward.
- Democratic lawmakers have formed a working group to reestablish the proven protections of pre-clearance — the formula that was used to determine which states would be required to get federal approval before passing any voting laws. This group is crafting amendments to the law that would reinstate the protections.
- Democratic leaders continue to pass laws that expand access to the polls. Most recently, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law sweeping voting reforms in Colorado: every registered voter will automatically receive a mail-in ballot, voters will be able to vote at centers across the state rather than just their precinct, early voting has been expanded, and there is same-day voter registration. In Maryland, Governor O'Malley signed into law similar measures: expanding early voting hours and providing for same-day voter registration during the early voting period.