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Monday, July 1, 2013
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is closely monitoring how states and localities that were formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are responding to the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which effectively removed that core protection. Click here to review a running, and still growing, list of state, county, and local level responses to the decision, including jurisdictions’ intentions to implement new discriminatory voting changes in the wake of the decision.
Changes in congressional districting attract attention, but local changes, also have significant impact on communities of color. These potentially discriminatory voting changes at the local level can include:
- Changing polling hours and locations to inconvenient times and locations, including just days before an election, in communities of color.
- Reducing the number of polling places, including by consolidating polling places, particularly those serving communities of color with limited transportation.
- Canceling election dates, including just days before an election, or moving election dates to summer months when turnout in communities of color is lower.
- Changing or eliminating early voting days and/or hours. Communities of color, particularly in the last several elections, have used early voting periods to participate in historic numbers.
- Replacing district voting with at-large elections. At-large methods of elections for county commissions, county or city school boards, or city councils, in combination with racial bloc voting, can weaken the voting strength of communities of color, which have better opportunities to elect their preferred candidates of choice under district voting. Under at-large electoral schemes, a cohesive voting block with 51 percent (majority) of the vote can elect 100 percent of the officials.
- Annexations, when conducted selectively, such as annexing large white neighborhoods into districts where people of color are the majority, can dilute the voting strength of communities of color.
- Implementing onerous candidate qualifications, like limiting eligibility for elected positions to landowners who are registered to vote, or changing candidate qualifying periods with little or no notice.
- Appointing officials in place of electing officials.
- Implementing onerous registration qualifications, including by requiring (a) third-party voter registration organizations to submit completed voter registration applications within a limited window of time or face monetary penalties, or (b) proof of citizenship to vote in-person in state and local elections, which, because federal voter registration applications already require proof of citizenship, creates a two-tiered system of voting for state and local elections versus federal elections.
- Purging qualified voters from registration lists, particularly based on error-prone lists, and eliminating same-day voter registration opportunities.
This list of the common potentially discriminatory voting changes to watch out for can be downloaded here.
Let LDF know of any voting changes that are planned in your area that you believe may negatively impact your community by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to pursuing litigation with all of the legal tools that remain available, LDF also is urging Congress to aggressively respond to the Supreme Court’s shameful decision and to protect voters of color from discrimination.