In Texas, Michigan, North Carolina and elsewhere, federal courts in recent months have struck down one discriminatory voting law after another in a series of major victories for voting-rights advocates. Millions of voters, especially minorities who might have otherwise been obstructed by voter-identification requirements or shortened early voting times, will now be able to cast their ballots in the presidential election. But these victories, though significant and hard-won, concern only major state-level voting laws. They obscure a more pernicious problem: In towns, cities and counties across the country — particularly throughout the Deep South — many discriminatory voting changes have been made at more local levels. Because officials don’t always have to give notice in advance about such changes, voters may learn of them only when they show up at the polls. Local elections — for mayors, for members of school boards and city councils — affect such critical everyday issues as education policy and policing priorities. Consequently, local voter discrimination can have a more direct impact on the lives of minority voters than can voter discrimination in presidential elections and should worry us the most.
Consider some recent examples:
In March, the City Council of Daphne, Ala., shrank the number of polling places from five locations in white and black districts to just two polling places located in districts that are mostly white. As a result, black voters are now forced to travel farther than before, yet most white voters face no new burdens.
Similarly, although a federal appeals court in July reinstated seven extra days of early voting in North Carolina, the Board of Elections in Wake County, N.C., decided this month to limit early voting to one site, rather than 20, during the restored early voting period.
In March, civil rights groups wrote to the Board of Elections for St. Louis County, Mo., about its decision to locate polling places in municipal buildings that share space with local police departments. Advocates rightly worried that this could intimidate and deter minorities from voting there amid tensions between the police and the black community.
Full Article: Voting Rights Success? Not So Fast – The New York Times.