Our country faces profound and important challenges in the years ahead. As the presidential candidates prepare to take to the podiums for the first debate, there are many essential questions anyone seeking our nation’s highest office must answer. Though far from exhaustive given the many pressing policy questions we face, over the course of the presidential and vice-presidential debate cycle, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will be identifying key questions that each candidate must answer about critical civil rights issues. For the first debate, LDF calls on moderator Lester Holt to ask questions about voting and policing. We will be sharing additional topics and questions in the days to come to inform future debates.
This will be the first presidential election without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act; millions of minority voters face disenfranchisement as the result of voter suppression laws enacted at the state and local level. In addition to their voices not being heard in presidential and congressional races, minority voters also face not having a voice in the local elections, elections for offices like mayor, school board, and sheriff that have profound impacts on their day-to-day lives. Fully restoring this signature piece of American democracy to its full power must be a priority for the next administration and Congress. The candidates must make clear where they stand on amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to restore it to its full power.
From Tulsa to Charlotte to Hagerstown, this past week has once again illustrated the urgent need for policing reform. We must ensure transparency, accountability, and most importantly end discrimination in policing. Right now, the federal government gives more than $2 billion annually to local law enforcement agencies. Charlotte has received $4 million since 2010, Tulsa $14 million. Larger jurisdictions like Chicago have received $40 million and more. Yet under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government is forbidden from funding programs that engage in discrimination. It is time to close the loopholes that allow money to go to departments that engage in discrimination. Further, federal funding of local law enforcement should be tied to requirements that departments engage in anti-bias and de-escalation training, data reporting, and other policies that will help end racial bias in policing.