Since the US Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states that were once required to get permission from the US Department of Justice to enact voting laws have been free to implement limits to voting that activists say could have a negative impact on the 2016 presidential elections. The high court ruling against the federal government in the Holder v Shelby case in 2013, was followed closely by several primarily southern states, enacting a series of draconian laws that have made it increasingly more difficult for African-Americans, Latinos, students and the elderly to cast their ballots. The Republican legislators supporting these bills claim that the measures are an effort to block voter fraud. Their critics contend that the laws are a way to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote Democratic. But, a national coalition of voters, advocacy groups and voting rights activists as well as in the Department of Justice, have been fighting back in the courts, statehouses and city council chambers. These advocates have now released a new report, showing the adverse impact of the Shelby case.
“This is really an important report. It is an effort to identify problems that have already arisen,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “We’re witnessing a virtual renaissance of voter restrictions. If they persist, they could have a very serious effect on the upcoming elections. It is an insidious and sophisticated way to shave off a few points in key races. It is a particular problem to minorities…It is a concern of national importance, one that Congress should pay particular attention to.”
The report, titled, “Warning Signs: The Potential Impact of Shelby County v. Holder on the 2016 General Election”, was compiled with the collaboration of national civil rights organizations, including the Leadership Conference Education Fund, the ACLU, the Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the NALEO Educational Fund.
It finds that, since Shelby, the states of North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – once under the Section 5 preclearance mandate — have engaged in deceptive and sophisticated practices to disenfranchise voters that will have an impact on the 2016 election. These states are locations of competitive 2016 contests that will have 84 Electoral College votes, two Senate seats, and one governor’s seat up for grabs.