Voting Rights Part 2

By Hubert Plummer posted 08-03-2018 04:54 PM


Last time I discussed the current legal status of the Voting Rights Act and how its protections are being eroded.  I finished by stating that the statistics that the court relied on have changed.

The Court noted that in Mississippi in 1965, black voter registration was 6.4% and the difference between black and white voter registration was 60%.  In 2004 the black registration rate in Mississippi was 76%, almost 4 points higher than white registration and black voter turnout exceed white turnout in 5 of the 6 states originally covered in 1965. [i]

The court relied on these figures for their determination that voting rights were now equal and minorities did not need further special protection, but those numbers have changed.

For example, here is a chart I made based on US Census data for the percent of African American voters registered in that state:
















* see note below





North Carolina




* The sample size of African Americans in Ohio dipped below a level that the Census uses as a cut off for statistical analysis.  In raw numbers the number of registered African American voters in Ohio went from 723,000 in 2012 to 680,000 in 2014 to 28,000 in 2016.

One attack on voting rights by states is the purging of voter registration rolls.  That means removing the people from the list of eligible voters.  If it is done creatively it can remove voters of the opposing political party to those in power.

As you can see, some gains in African American registration were made up until the early twenty-teens.  Then some states started getting creative.  In particular, Ohio instituted a plan where registered voters are placed on a list for removal if they miss one federal voting cycle.[v] You can see the result in the chart above.  It can be noted the white registration was at 69% in 2012 and 2016 with a dip to 65% in 2014.  This purge was recently ruled legal by the Supreme Court.[vi]

We can also see that Mississippi, which the court said, had black voter registration at 76% in 2004 did rise to 90% in 2012, but dropped 10 points in the next 4 years.

Florida attempted to cleanse their voting rolls of non-citizens and dead people.  They used faulty lists from various sources and again purged many eligible voters.[vii]

In 2016, 200,000 voters were illegally removed from voter registration rolls in Brooklyn, New York, a predominantly minority area.  Similar purges have happened in Arkansas and Virginia.[viii]

Another attack is voter ID laws.  Many states, citing false claims of voter fraud, have instituted Voter ID laws, which require a voter to provide government issued ID, such as a Driver License or Passport when they go to the polls to vote.[ix]  This clearly has a disproportionate impact on minorities and poorer people.  In many states getting such identification is difficult and expensive. 

Texas has a particularly tough Voter ID law that went into effect just hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  For example, gun registration cards are valid ID, but a student ID card is not.  They have a “free” Voter ID card, but you have to pay to get the official documents needed to get the “free” ID.  Also many counties don’t have offices that issue these IDs.  For some that would mean travelling a hundred miles to the nearest office.

The final strategy I will mention today is the massive reduction in polling places.  For example, following the Voting Rights Act decision, Maricopa County in Arizona, reduced the number of polling places from 200 to just 60.  That is just one polling place for each 21,000 registered voters.  Lines for voting were over 5 hours at some locations, and people just left without voting.[x]  Texas has closed 403 polling locations, Arizona has closed 212 places.

The Leadership Conference for Civil Rights surveyed 381 of the 800 counties previously covered by Section 5 where polling place information was available in 2012 or 2014 and found there are 868 fewer places to cast a ballot in 2016 in these areas. [xi]

In addition to closing polling locations, states are reducing early voting opportunities.  37 states, plus D.C., offer early voting.[xii]  Early or absentee voting is vital for many voters, those whose jobs won’t give them time to vote, the infirm, those without easy means to get to a polling place and those absent from home at voting time.  Again, a policy that targets the poor and minorities.  This, coupled with the reduction in polling places, really limits the ability for a large number of eligible voters to cast their votes.

Voting is a right.  I would argue the most important of our rights as citizens.  It gives everyone an equal say in who governs us.  Who makes our laws and sets our policies.  Restricting this right allows those in power to remain in power.  It allows those who are not representative of the will of the people to govern those people and is anathema to our nation’s essence.














The author[s] is solely responsible for this blog submission.  It does not represent the position of the New York State Bar Association or its Committee.