The Attack on Voting Rights Continues

By AGF staff

In the wake of the resurgence of white supremacy, anti-immigrant sentiment, massive voter suppression tactics, and the gutting of key civil rights protections, we are seeing greater threats to our democracy than ever before. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 led to the removal of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, we’ve witnessed a steep increase in race-based and youth-targeted voter suppression tactics around the country. This month has proved no different.

On June 11, 2018, SCOTUS delivered a ruling on Husted v. APRI. The case brought into question Ohio’s controversial voter purge practice, which removes eligible voters from the rolls after a relatively short period of inactivity. In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ohio’s system does not violate the National Voter Registration Act or Help America Vote Act. Both acts are federal voting laws, which prohibit states from removing eligible people from the rolls for failure to vote.

The case originated when Dēmos and the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) of Ohio filed a suit against the state of Ohio, on behalf of the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, and Ohio resident Larry Harmon in 2016. Harmon voted in 2008 but did not vote in any subsequent elections. Although tax records show he has lived in Ohio for the past 16 years, he was turned away from the polls in 2015.  In the circuit court, Dēmos, ACLU-Ohio, and Harmon triumphed. Unfortunately, it was short-lived as SCOTUS ruled in favor of Ohio and paved the way for tens of thousands of infrequent voters to be legally purged from the rolls.

Then, on June 25, 2018, five years to the day since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, history repeated itself. In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered another blow to voting rights with Abbott v. Perez. The case brought into question Texas’ gerrymandered districts, which it argued were drawn with racial bias meant to dilute the votes of Hispanic residents. Vote dilution occurs when mapmakers pack as many minority voters as possible into a handful of districts, distributing the rest throughout majority-white districts. As a result, white voters, who constitute the majority in the district, select their preferred candidate while minorities are deprived of an equal opportunity to participate. This is precisely what occurred in Texas. SCOTUS’s decision reverses a lower court’s conclusion and finding of fact, that Texas gerrymandered both congressional and state legislative districts in order to suppress the minority vote in the state.

These decisions by the Supreme Court, that reverse lower court decisions to protect voting rights, make The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s work more important than ever. Barriers to voting prohibit our most vulnerable voices from being heard, valued, and included. These court decisions will systematically disenfranchise people of color, people with disabilities, and young people in our communities for years to come. That’s why we have to sustain the fight. The Andrew Goodman Foundation will continue to honor Andrew Goodman’s legacy by defending participatory democracy, inclusive of everyone, where the fundamental right to vote is diligently preserved. Join us by pledging your dollars, your voices, and your votes, until every American, regardless of age, race, color, or creed, can vote everywhere.