Justice

Tweets Expose a Quiet Movement to Restrict Minorities From Voting

This 2016 election will be one for the history books, and not just because America could elect its first female president.

This will be the first presidential election in more than 50 years without many of the significant protections for minority voters provided by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act were struck down in a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, including a section which required nine states and some districts with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices to receive federal approval before changing election laws.

Two tweets reveal the significant consequences for minorities.

Ari Berman, a writer for The Nation who has written a book about voting rights titled "Give us the Ballot," tweeted back in August that the ruling will directly affect huge sections of racial minorities in the United States.

Based on data from the Department of Justice, Berman's tweet breaks down the racial and ethnic groups that lost voting protections provided by the Voting Rights Act because of the Supreme Court decision.

  • 45 percent of voting age black Americans
  • 30 percent of voting age Latinos.
  • 23 percent of voting age Asians
  • 34 percent of voting age Native Americans
  • 17 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders

The second tweet emphasizes the incredible impact the 1965 Voting Rights Act had when it went into effect.

In places like Selma, Alabama, which was a focal point in the Civil Rights Movement, registration for black voters increased by 65 percent after the legislation passed, Berman reports.

The loss of Voting Rights Act protections is part of a larger trend that could disenfranchise minority voters on a large scale.

Millions of people can't vote this year because they don't have a government-issued photo ID.

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, September 8, 2016

There are 14 states, not all of them affected by the 2013 decision on the VRA, that will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

The Center calls this push part of a "broader movement to curtail voting rights, which began after the 2010 election, when state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote."

Overall 20 states have created new restrictions on voting since 2010, which range from new laws about voter registration, ending early voting, and new voter ID requirements, according to the Brennan Center.

The 2012 National Elections Study found that 13 percent of Black Americans don't have a government ID while only 5 percent of white people don't have an ID, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Why would politicians want to restrict voting?

Restrictive voting laws can manipulate who votes. Lawrence Norden from the Brennan Center told PBS Frontline in 2012 that the wave in voting restrictions has a direct impact on minority voting rights.

"Certainly, this is the biggest rollback since the civil-rights era in terms of voting rights," he said to Frontline. Norden argues that, after President George W. Bush won the 2000 election by a very small margin, politicians committed to changing election laws in order to affect election results.

“This realization that changing the rules can have an impact on results has politicized election administration in ways that you hadn’t seen in the U.S. in a very long time,” he said to Frontline in 2012.

 

Advocates in southern states, the main region where VRA protections were stuck down, said that the changes in voting laws are targeted at minorities.

“It’s all about the political will,” Anita Earls, the executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told the Center for Public Integrity. "If you look at a map where African-American populations are the largest, it’s basically all of the Southern states, and that’s where most of these new voting restrictions have been enacted."

However, politicians who support voter ID requirements say that the law is not intended to keep people out, but to uphold the integrity of the process.

“The reason I supported the bill was to ensure that we had credibility and integrity in the electoral process,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Center for Public integrity. He is a supporter of his state's voter ID law. “The right to vote is one of the most basic rights that we have, and we want to make sure that everybody that wants to participate in the process is allowed to.”

However, studies have found that voter ID laws may be a solution in search of a problem.

An analysis of voter fraud since 2000 found 31 credible cases out of one billion votes cast, according to The Washington Post.

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