Voting rights are under siege in a way that hasn’t been seen in more than a generation. But these coordinated attacks follow a historic pattern: Laws that expanded the franchise during Reconstruction and after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have typically been followed by state-level repression and federal indifference. “With advancements in voting rights, there is always a swift backlash,” says Leah Aden, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. With Donald Trump in the White House, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama likely as attorney general, and Republican-led legislatures primed to continue voter suppression, the run-up to the 2018 midterms promises to be one of the most difficult periods for protecting the franchise in the country’s history.
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