Launched in 2019, the Voting Rights Practice Group works across the Deep South in collaboration with community partners and organizers to engage and mobilize voters, restore voting rights to returning citizens, pursue electoral policy reforms, and bring litigation to challenge unconstitutional and discriminatory voting practices.
The United States has a long history of denying voting rights to its citizens, including people of color, women, and young people. Despite the gains made over the past several decades, we face a renewed commitment by many in power to take us back to the old, shameful days of poll taxes, literacy tests, identification cards, and citizenship tests. In fact, since 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – Section 5 – which provided the greatest legal protections to the most marginalized communities, we have seen states in the Deep South pass voter suppression laws that target the same communities Section 5 was enacted to safeguard. Without Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, states and local jurisdictions have implemented election changes without any regard to whether those changes will harm voters. Further, lack of training, oversight, and resources in conducting elections causes confusion, delays, and discriminatory outcomes for voters simply attempting to cast their ballot and have it counted. Until Congress restores the Voting Rights Act to its full strength and states pass progressive legislation, the fundamental right to vote will remain under attack.
The Voting Rights Practice Group’s efforts center on the following priorities:
Expanding Access to the Ballot
We’re working to restore the right to vote to returning citizens across the Deep South and ensure that their voices are not silenced by requirements to pay off court debt or other burdensome restoration procedures. We’re working to expand access to the ballot for voters historically targeted and harmed by voter suppression efforts—voters of color, voters with disabilities, low-income, young, elderly, and transient voters—by fighting illegal voter purges, ensuring that ballots are counted, and protecting accessibility at polling places. We’re fighting against onerous registration and strict ballot requirements designed to decrease voter participation and working to promote legislative and policy reforms that eliminate unnecessary and burdensome restrictions for all eligible electors.
Redistricting, Gerrymandering, and the 2020 Census
We’re engaging with communities to highlight the importance of an accurate count in the 2020 Census. We are also working to empower communities in the Deep South to get involved in the state and local redistricting process to prevent all forms of gerrymandering, whether they be partisan, racial, or prison-based.
We’re engaging in policy reform to expand access to the democratic process in the Deep South and promote common sense policies such as automatic voter registration, same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, vote by mail, and the expansion or establishment of early voting. We’re ensuring that southern states comply with the requirements of federal laws like the Help America Vote Act and the National Voter Registration Act and do not illegally remove voters from the rolls.
Community Outreach & Engagement
We’ve launched voter registration and mobilization campaigns to ensure that voters have their voices heard in local, state, and federal elections. We’re coordinating with Election Protection and Prepared to Vote to ensure that voters going to the polls are not disenfranchised.
The Voting Rights Practice Group works in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Photo by Chuck Burto/AP Images