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Protecting Voting Rights

Ensuring peoples’ entitlement to participate in civil and political life without discrimination or repression

Protecting Voting Rights

Republican state legislatures approved 34 measures in 2021 that curtailed voting rights in over 12 different ways across 19 states. And those only include the legislations passed; many other provisions, which are still being considered, were introduced all around the country. By mid-January, 165 restricted voting laws were already scheduled for 2022.

These early signs, together with the continuous speculations surrounding the deceptive claims regarding voting fraud that sparked the previous record surge of voting suppression legislation, indicate that attempts to limit and stifle votes will remain a genuine concern in 2022.

Voting limits have been defended by the GOP (Grand Old Party) by claims that they prevent elections from fraud and certain safeguards against electoral prejudice aren’t necessary anymore. The data refute this attempt to gain control by excluding voters, particularly minorities who frequently support Democrats.

Since the 1965 Voting Rights Act passage, there has been no rise in voter fraud in the United States. However, minority voting rights have significantly increased, and the advantages of federal monitoring have continued.

Conservative politicians and judges started toying with the enshrined voting rights years ago after becoming alarmed by this tendency. If left unchecked, they might gain more momentum during this year’s elections.

Some History

The road to this point started in 2013, but vile claims about a stolen election fueled the current wave of limitations. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court rejected the “preclearance” clause of the Voting Rights Act, which demanded that counties with a discrimination history obtain federal court or Justice Department permission for any proposed changes to election rules.

In the majority decision, Chief Justice J. Roberts said that because patterns of discrimination have evolved, Congress shouldn’t utilize formulas based on data collected 40 years ago with no logical connection to current statistics. Desmond Ang, a public policy and race expert, disagreed, claiming that preclearance remains crucial for today’s civil rights.

The Voting Rights Act’s key clause alone, he found in his 2019 research, has supported enfranchisement more than 40 years later, particularly among blacks. He concluded that the advantages were so long-lasting that in countries like the United States, where electoral legislation is extremely fragmented and opaque, comprehensive preventive monitoring covering prospective voting modifications could be the best way to reduce prejudice.

Sociologists Robin Stryker and Nicholas Pedriana concluded in their 2017 analysis that the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity provisions of the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act are three crucial civil rights laws passed in the 1960s. They contributed to the advancement of racial equality. The most effective legislation for advancing equality was the Voting Rights Act.

Its success was largely dependent on group-centered results, which emphasize discriminatory consequences as opposed to discriminatory intent, systemic disadvantage as opposed to individual disadvantage, and corrective group outcomes as opposed to justice for specific wrongdoers or victims. The result of eliminating that legal framework is the systematic and extremely efficient suppression of mass minority voters.

Latest Developments

Despite their best efforts, the Democrats could not stop the current wave of voting limitations in the Senate. The broad-based, preventative tactics that have successfully promoted racial equality at the very foundation of our democratic system were included in both proposed laws.

The Freedom to Vote Act would have created uniform national standards regarding ballot accessibility and prevented gerrymandering and other electoral biases. The present preclearance judgments, which make it more difficult to challenge election regulations in court based on discrimination, would have been overturned under the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Actions States Can Take To Protect Voting

There are steps that individual states may take to preserve voting rights even in the absence of federal law. Voters can persuade state-elected authorities to amend the election laws by individual action.

America is a federation; thus, the states have a lot of freedom to implement changes without federal intervention. The following four actions states may take to safeguard voters:

  1. Reduce obstacles to registration.
  2. Make voting straightforward.
  3. Prevent political interference in the certification of votes.
  4. Pass a voting rights act at the state level.

The Bottom Line

Both parties supported the Voting Rights Act for many years. Not anymore. However, states and the federal government must re-establish and broaden federal monitoring and authority over unfair electoral laws. Social justice groups and anyone who cares about fundamental democratic rights must continue to apply pressure until that time.

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