Since 2010, 21 states have restricted voting rights, said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C., office. Proponents of the new laws, which do such things as requiring government-issued photo IDs to vote, say they are designed to combat voter fraud. Opponents point out that documented cases of in-person voter fraud are all but non-existent. The real reason for the new laws, the say, is to make it harder for minorities or poor people to vote. “The move ‘Selma’ has come out, and we’re still in the fight to secure and protect voting rights,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization founded in 1999. “We no longer have poll taxes. But instead, we have voter IDs. We don’t have literacy tests. But we have things like cuts to early voting and cuts to Sunday voting, all which are targeted at communities of color who have gained access to the ballot because of the Voting Rights Act. “We see more subtle attempts to make it harder to vote. It’s just a different page out of the playbook that makes it harder for African Americans to participate,” Browne Dianis said.
In December, the ACLU sued the Ferguson-Florissant (Missouri) School District in federal court, claiming discrimination against black voters. Ferguson-Florissant school board members are elected at-large, rather than by geographic district. African Americans made up 77 percent of the student body during the 2011-12 school year, but only one black person serves on the seven-member school board. “In this city that has had intense racial division and racial tensions over the last few decades, you very rarely ever get African Americans elected to that school board — even though 80 percent of the students in that school district are African American,” Ho said.
In Texas, a federal judge ruled in October that a law requiring voters to present a photo ID discriminates against Hispanics and African Americans and “constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.” An appeals court quickly overturned that decision.
Legal challenges of voting restrictions are also ongoing in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Austin-Hillery said. “In 2015, we are primed to have voting rights be one of the core issues that the Supreme Court is going to look at,” she said.
Full Article: Voting rights for minorities threatened, experts say.