Voting Rights

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This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions that you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

Recent Updates
Recent Updates
[edit]

  • 2/27/2017: Early reporting suggests the DOJ will switch sides in Texas voter ID case to defend the discriminatory law. Voter ID laws have been found to suppress black and Hispanic voter turnout.
  • 2/1/2017: According to the Brennan Center, at least 308 bills to enhance voting access have been introduced in 36 states. Meanwhile, at least 46 bills to restrict access to registration and voting have been introduced in 21 states. Go to State and Local Pages to view the bills currently being considered in your state.

36 states are considering bills that expand voting access [1]. 21 states are considering bills that restrict voting access [2].

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist
[edit]

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Actions Taken by the Federal Government
[edit]

Legislative Actions[edit]

Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice




  • HR 946 would allow all eligible voters to vote by mail in federal elections.
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Harmful Legislation

  • HR 133 would end taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns, making candidates more dependent on donations from wealthy individuals and corporations.
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  • The House Administration Committee voted to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal agency that works to make sure that voting machines can't be hacked.[4]



See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Executive / Administrative Actions[edit]

  • 01/21/2017: John Gore, chosen as assistant attorney general for civil rights, represented Florida to defend a law designed to remove suspected noncitizens from registration rolls, which was found in violation of the National Voter Registration Act by a federal appeals court (it primarily targets Latino and Democratic voters). He also defended several redistricting plans against accusations of civil rights violations.[5]
  • 01/25/2017: On Twitter, Trump calls for a major investigation into voter fraud (which has never been proven to exist), and vows to "strengthen up voting procedures." It's likely that the investigation will be used to justify a nationwide voter ID law and/or other restrictions to voting access.[6]
  • 01/20/2017: The Department of Justice under the Trump administration requested and was granted a postponement of the Texas Voter ID case. This is a contrast from the DOJ under President Obama, which called for an expedited hearing.[7]
  • 01/19/2017: Recent reporting states that as part of budget cuts, the Trump team plans to cut funding for the DOJ Civil Rights division, which is critical to enforcing the Voting Rights Act and protecting voting rights.[8]

Projected Impact
Projected Impact
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  • Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will likely use false claims of voter fraud to encourage the implementation of restrictive voting laws, a form of Institutional Racism that disproportionately reduces turnout among people of color, who tend to vote Democratic. This is similar to strategies employed by Republican-controlled state legislatures; many so-called Voter ID laws were declared unconstitutional after challenges from the Obama Justice Department, most notably in North Carolina, where courts found explicit discriminatory intent.[9]
    Strict voter ID laws disproportionately reduce black and Latino turnout [3].


  • If Trump appoints a conservative justice to the Supreme Court, there could be five votes to further dismantle the Voting Rights Act, especially Section 2 of the law, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color. (This provision was successfully used to challenge voting restrictions in North Carolina and Texas this year.) Without Section 2, voter restrictions that have a clear discriminatory outcome wouldn't be able to be overturned unless they were proven to be intentionally discriminatory (which is extremely hard, if not impossible, to do in many cases).[10]
  • Trump's Justice Department appears unlikely to enforce the Voting Rights Act and may instead focus on encouraging states to put in place further restrictions that make it harder for young people, low-income people, people with disabilities, and people of color to vote. This could include purging voter rolls and/or launching investigations into voter-registration organizations.[11]
  • Altogether, these policies would make it harder to vote, disproportionately impacting communities of color, lower-income people and people with disabilities. People with disabilities in particular are thought to be the "canaries in the coal mine" when it comes to policies that make it more difficult to vote, which is especially troubling given that up to 35% of all people will need accommodations to vote in the next 25 years.[12] These policies have often been designed to target voters who are likely to vote Democrat, thereby reducing Democrats' political power.

Trump / GOP Strategy
Trump / GOP Strategy
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  • Trump has supported the use of Voter ID laws,[13] challenged early voting,[14] and falsely claimed that 3 to 5 million undocumented immigrants cast votes during the 2016 election.[15]
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a record of prosecuting civil rights activists for trying to register voters,[16] calling the Voting Rights Act "a piece of intrusive legislation,"[17] opposing legislation to expand voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals,[18] and supporting Voter ID laws.[19] As such, the Trump administration's agenda will likely focus on supporting voter restrictions, further weakening protections within the Voting Rights Act, and targeting organizations that register people to vote and other groups in the name of alleged "voter fraud" (which almost never occurs).[20]
  • These voting restrictions may also further embolden state legislatures to continue the practice of gerrymandering.

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
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  • It would take legislation or a conservative new Supreme Court justice to dismantle the Voting Rights Act, which would need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster. Just as Republican Senators blocked President Obama from nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Democrats could block the appointment of any justice who does not support the Voting Rights Act.[21]
  • Because voting laws are predominantly set at the local and state level, Trump's Department of Justice cannot directly impose the type of voting restrictions he has proposed (unless further federal legislation is passed regarding this, which Democrats can block).

Past Updates
Past Updates
[edit]

  • 2/14/2017: The North Carolina Supreme Court reinstated a block on the legislature's plan to restructure the state elections board and ethics commission. The GOP plan would have merged these two bodies to form an "eight-member board to oversee elections and consider ethics complaints and issues," four of which would be appointed by the governor and the other four by the legislature. Previously, five-member election boards were appointed by the governor and comprised three members of the governor's party and two members of the other major party.[22]
  • 02/10/2017: The Associated Press reports that "at least 20 mostly Republican-led states" are pushing for regulations on voting and registering to vote. Legislation in Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska and Indiana would require citizens to show identification at the polls. Maine and Nebraska are pushing for photo identification for voting. New Hampshire is pushing a residency requirement that would prevent college students from voting.[23]
  • 02/08/2017: Georgia State Representative Alan Powell successfully advanced a provision to HB 136, which proposes that Georgia residents who are not citizens receive drivers' licenses with clear "noncitizen" markings, citing a fear of voting fraud. Georgia does not currently issue drivers' licenses to people who are not in the United States legally.[24] A similar bill passed the state Senate but failed in the House in 2016.[25]
  • 02/08/2017: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the New York Votes Act, which introduces early voting, same-day registration, and automatic voter registration, among other measures designed to improve New York State's poor voter turnout. This bill would also end disenfranchisement of citizens on parole and allow electronic voter registration.[26]
  • 02/02/2017: A federal court found that Alabama state legislators violated the Constitution by redrawing 12 districts to reduce the strength of the black vote in 2012. The state has been ordered to correct the district map before the 2018 primaries.[27]
  • 02/01/2017: The Arkansas House approved a plan Tuesday to reinstate a voter ID law that was struck down more than two years ago, with Republicans counting on a new state Supreme Court makeup to uphold the measure this time.[28]
  • 01/30/2017: The State of Redistricting Litigation (January 2017 edition).[29]
  • 01/28/2017: Recent court decisions in three states are putting carefully carved Republican-drawn state legislative districts at risk—and could even threaten the entire process of partisan map drawing.[30]
  • 01/24/2017: The Supreme Court has declined to hear Texas's appeal of the Fifth Circuit's softening of its strict voter-identification law. The state may file another appeal after a lower court rules whether state lawmakers discriminated on purpose when they passed the law in 2011.[31]
  • 01/24/2017: Trump is reportedly considering Judge William Pryor, Judge Kethledge, and Judge Diane Sykes for Supreme Court nominations. Judge Pryor and Sykes have both backed voter ID laws.[32] Judge Kethledge sided with the Ohio Republican Party in a decision that could have prevented 200,000 people from voting,[33] but a unanimous Supreme Court reversed the decision three days after it was handed down.[34]
  • 01/18/2017: The Brennan Center for Justice released a Voting Laws Roundup 2017 preview that states that there are 169 bills to enhance voting access and 33 bills to restrict it coming before the states. You can read which applies in your jurisdiction here.