This month in voting rights, a lot has happened. Want to make sure you don’t miss the best opinion pieces, deep dives, and analysis? Here’s your roundup of must-read articles on voting rights from around the web. There’s more to read this month, but we’ve highlighted the essentials.
The Supreme Court of the United States
1. In a major setback for voting rights, the Supreme Court has ruled that, unlike other fundamental rights, the right to vote can be denied if you fail to exercise it. In Ohio, voters who do not vote within a certain time period must respond to a postcard in order to avoid being purged from voter rolls. But although most voters are still eligible to vote, most fail to respond to the easily overlooked postcard. In 2012, Ohio sent postcards to “1.5 million people — around 20 percent of its voters. More than 1.2 million didn’t respond.” This aggressive practice kicked 2 million voters off the rolls in a five-year period and disproportionately purged voters from predominantly African American neighborhoods.
2. In his dissent in the Ohio voter purge case, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer “expressed some amazement at the majority’s cavalier treatment of the right to vote.” In allowing the Ohio voter purges to proceed, the Court is rubber-stamping an illogical and unreasonable burden on the right to vote. Furthermore, the Ohio voter purges precisely typify the hurdles that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) sought to elimintate. Breyer points out that the VRA expressly prohibits “the removal of a registered voter by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” However, this is exactly what the Ohio practice does: it uses the failure to vote to start the process of purging voter rolls, and it deprives people of their right to vote.
3. The Supreme Court has chosen to ignore the broader context of the Ohio voter purges in which Republicans have been manipulating election law in myriad ways. “One of their principal objectives has been to lock in their electoral advantage” by making it harder for poor people and minorities and the young to vote. The Ohio purge does just that: it disproportionately affects minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters. And Republicans in other states are likely to use the Ohio practice as a model for even more voter suppression.
1. The Supreme Court “punted on two crucial partisan gerrymandering cases” this month. The consequence is that, going forward, it is largely up to voters to “safeguard fair democracy…That’s not easy when one side has the power to entrench themselves in power for a decade,” but citizen groups are fighting back.
2. The Court’s decision in the only racial gerrymandering case on the docket this year “delivered another victory to the broad and deep GOP effort to make sure that American elections are rigged in conservatives’ favor.” The case underlined the fact that “the Supreme Court is a key component of the GOP election-rigging project.” It also “means that, after…undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas will continue to be underrepresented in the political process…[T]heir right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.” And to top it all off, we received confirmation that two sitting Supreme Court Justices believe that the section of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits racial discrimination should not be applied to any redistricting case.
Want more? Justice Neil M. Gorsuch “joined Justice Clarence Thomas’ crusade to hobble the [Voting Rights Act] even further by holding that it does not prohibit racial gerrymandering. Were the court to adopt Gorsuch’s interpretation, the VRA could never again be used to stop racist mapmakers from diluting minority votes.”
The Dark Future of the Court
1. With Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s retirement, the best place to advocate for our “most cherished rights and protections…is the ballot box. So show up and vote.” We must elect politicians at every level who share our values and offer hope in this “dark moment in history.”
Elections: Cybersecurity, Voter Protection, and Voter Turnout
1. Undermining public faith in the US democratic process was “a major goal of Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks.” It is a form of voter suppression, and overcoming it will mean getting people to the polls.
2. Mistakes happen, and they can happen anywhere. That’s what makes voter protection so important! “About 2.3% of L.A. County’s 5.1 million registered voters and 35% of the county’s 4,357 precincts were affected” by an error that accidentally left 118,522 voters’ names off rosters in a recent election, forcing those voters to cast provisional ballots.
3. Parkland survivors have launched a “voter mobilization effort aimed at getting young people registered and keeping them energized through the summer.” Young voters tend to sit out mid-term elections, and these youth are trying to change that.
Want more? Younger generations “make up a clear majority of voting-eligible adults in the United States, but…they are unlikely to cast the majority of votes this November.”
Voting Policy Reform (and Restrictive Voting Policies)
1. While on whole Republicans are “engaged in a shameful effort to restrict voting access,” some Republicans are apparently willing to expand voting rights. Vote-by-mail systems recently implemented in several counties in Utah, a state that is heavily Republican, boosted voter turnout by five to seven percentage points.
2. Ranked-choice voting can lead to increased voter turnout as well as more civility and substance in political campaigns. It also allows voters to express their political preferences more fully and elect the politicians that will be likely to represent them more fully.
3. The single-member district system that the US uses makes gerrymandering easier and more profitable. “Increase the size of districts (and use ranked-choice voting to improve proportionality) and the predictability of results declines, making gerrymandering far less effective.”
4. “Nearly every state has changed something about its voting process” since the 2016 election. This is on top of the many restrictive voting policies that have been enacted since 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.
Want more? Take a look at these two snapshots of state efforts to make voting harder:
- After North Carolina‘s last attempt to restrict voting was thrown out for targeting African-American voters “with almost surgical precision,” Republican lawmakers are back with a new plan to make voting harder.
- In the wake of the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act five years ago, Alabama has enacted many ways to restrict voting rights.