We are witnessing the most sweeping assault on voting rights since the end of the turbulent Reconstruction era following the Civil War. Legislatures in many states with Republican majorities have passed laws designed to hamper the ability of voters, particularly minorities, to cast their ballots. They are also creating obstacles for city dwellers, regardless of race, because many of them lean Democratic.
After the 2020 election, lawmakers in 20 states passed a total of 58 laws that restrict voting rights. This trend continued in the first half of 2023, when legislatures passed 13 of those laws. The lawmakers have justified these measures on the basis of false claims of election fraud or interference. It is not a coincidence that several of these states have a long history of suppressing African Americans’ access to the ballot box.
Many of these states were among the 15 jurisdictions that were constrained by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They had to submit any proposed voting laws for review by the Department of Justice.
Unfortunately, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Act, in Shelby County v. Holder and ended the preclearance requirement. That decision has allowed seven of these states, and others, to pass the current wave of voter suppression laws.
This dramatic increase in the number of harsh voter suppression measures threatens our democracy – it is a cancer in our body politic.
How You Can Help
We call upon you to help protect our right to vote – a fundamental right that ensures all will have a voice in our government.
We attach a list of non-partisan organizations below that focus on registering voters and “getting out the vote” on Election Day. We urge you to volunteer with these organizations or to support them financially. Registering new voters and helping voters get to the polls is the only way to offset these draconian laws and protect our democracy. Our goal is to ensure that our elections are fair and provide a level playing field for all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Our goal is not to favor one party over another.
Voter Suppression Techniques
Laws restricting voting rights that have been passed, or have been proposed, effectively disenfranchise voters through several techniques, such as:
· Limiting the use of voting by mail, either outright or by reducing the number of drop boxes
· Cutting the number of polling stations in densely populated cities, particularly in minority neighborhoods
· Reducing the hours when polling stations are open
· Allowing officials great leeway to purge voting rolls
· Requiring voter identification or limiting the acceptable forms of voter ID—often a problem for minority voters; and
· Preventing groups from providing water bottles to voters standing in long lines in areas with limited polling sites
In a new twist, several states, such as Georgia, have enacted laws that could allow partisan politicians to interfere in overseeing election results. Under these laws, they have been given the authority to supplant non-partisan state officials, such as secretaries of state, who have traditionally tabulated and certified election results.
Furthermore, several new laws impose criminal penalties—including imprisonment—upon election officials who take innocuous steps such as sending mail-in ballots to voters on their own initiative, rather than in response to a request. These laws are intended to intimidate election officials from performing their duties.
The proponents of these laws and bills justify them on the grounds that they are needed to prevent voting fraud. However, as researchers have reported, there has been no evidence of any significant voting fraud in the United States.
The Federal Government Has Not Taken Decisive Action
After the 2020 election, Congress failed twice to pass legislation to protect voting rights in Federal elections, primarily because of steadfast Republican opposition.
In 2021, the Supreme Court issued a decision that severely weakened Section 2, the other major provision of the Voting Rights Act, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. On the other hand, the Court upheld the use of Section 2 to prevent disenfranchisement of African-American voters, in Allen v. Milligan (2023). However, that case involved maps that were blatantly discriminatory on racial grounds. The Milligan decision is an outlier for a Court that has generally not been favorable to protecting voters’ rights over the last two decades.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation of the voting suppression law that Georgia passed in 2021, but that has not led to any other action thus far.
In short, we should not expect the Federal Government to take steps to protect voting rights in Georgia or other states under the current circumstances.
Instead, we should assume that many states will conduct the 2024 elections under the repressive laws they have passed; engage in measures to discourage certain groups of voters from exercising their rights to cast a ballot; and attempt to pass new voter suppression laws or regulations. We must all be vigilant in our efforts to protect voting rights.
How to Defend Voting Rights
The goal of the new laws is to suppress voter turnout in key districts, particularly in swing states, to favor one political party. At this point, the best way to defend voting rights is through massive drives to register voters and helping them get to the polls. We believe that the organizations on our list have the experience and know-how to do that.
Our list includes broad-based civic groups, such as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, as well as groups that focus on Blacks, Latinos, and Asian Americans. We describe the organizations and provide their contact information.
Because of ClassACT’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status, we have only listed groups that are non-partisan, though some organizations may be 501(c)(4) entities to which donations are not tax-deductible.
 Please note that the list is compiled based on available information as of the date indicated on the spreadsheet. Tax laws and the tax status of organizations may be change, and you should separately consider the deductibility of any donations made. For information regarding how to register to vote, polling sites, absentee ballots, and other voting information by state, go to: https://www.commoncause.org/voting-tools/
VOTER SUPPRESSION: A CANCER ON OUR BODY POLITIC
The elimination of many polling places. The cancellation of early voting. The intimidation at the polls of voters and election workers. These are just a few of the signs of voter suppression that have sprouted in recent years as some members of the electorate attempt to attain or to hold on to power by preventing those they regard as potential opponents from voting.
ClassACT HR73 hosted the forum “Voter Suppression: A Cancer in Our Body Politic” on September 12th, 2022. The forum brought together journalists, activists and experts concerned with election integrity to discuss how repressing voting threatens our democracy. Class of 1973’s own E.J. Dionne, the renowned Washington Post columnist, moderated a panel that included Congressman Joaquin Castro HLS '00, the Congressman for the 20th District of Texas, Cecile Scoon ’81, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida, Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, and Samuel Spital '00, HLS '04, the Director of Litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.LEARN MORE
ClassACT HR73 is pleased to present its primer on gerrymandering: Gerrymandering: Our Democracy at Risk.” Written by James P. Harbison and J. Ryan O’Connell with editing by Sallie Gouverneur, the primer is a product of ClassACT HR73’s Justice & Civic Engagement Initiative. Through this initiative, ClassACT has already hosted forums addressing issues such as voter suppression, racism and social justice, and racism in the criminal justice system.
Gerrymandering is one of the gravest, most insidious threats to our democracy, and the potential for abuse is soaring. When politicians draw voting maps to favor their party’s candidates over their opponents, that undermines the power of elections in our system of government…and citizens’ faith in our republic. A legislature should be a mirror image of its voters, so lawmakers reflect their constituents’ views, but gerrymandering prevents that.
Gerrymandering makes campaigns less competitive. With safe seats, incumbents can cater to their party’s members and ignore voters from the other party. Lawmakers are less inclined to compromise, which can lead to gridlock.
As a result of the 2020 census, officials in all 50 states have drawn up the voting maps that will govern elections for the next 10 years. With cheap, powerful computer programs, it’s easy for politicians to slice and dice voting districts to their hearts’ content…unless concerned citizens like you get involved and stop them.
“Gerrymandering: Our Democracy at Risk” will show you how to stop lawmakers from gaming the map-drawing process. We’ve written this primer for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, who want elections to be fair and their votes to count. Politicians from both major parties have succumbed to the temptations of gerrymandering.
CLICK TO READ
The primer explains:
We urge you to share this primer with your friends, communities and educational institutions. If you have questions about the primer or how to share it with others, please contact Ryan O’Connell.
Moderator Ryan O’Connell HR'73, one of the authors of a new ClassACT primer Gerrymandering: Our Democracy at Risk, led a panel of experts on reforming redistricting. The panelists included Alicia Bannon, Managing Director, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University; Brian Cannon, Director of Campaigns at the Institute for Political Innovation and former Executive Director of OneVirginia2021; Jim Harbison HR'73, PhD ’77, former physicist and computer scientist at Bell Labs and IBM, now focused on the mechanics and mathematics underlying gerrymandering; and Michael Li, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice. This Forum was developed by our gerrymandering subcommittee, led by Bahman Mossavar Rahmani '73, co-chair of ClassACT's Justice & Civic Engagement Initiative.LEARN MORE