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SPLC Launches Voting Rights Practice Group, Testified at Congressional Field Hearing on Voting Rights

New team will focus on voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement and partisan gerrymandering, which threaten democracy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – To fight for a healthier democracy and fully realize the promise of the Civil Rights Movement, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced the formation of a new Voting Rights Practice Group. In the group’s first official action, SPLC Deputy Legal Director Nancy Abudu testified at a field hearing of the United States House of Representatives Committee on House Administration in Birmingham, Alabama. The hearing was titled, “Voting Rights and Election Administration in Alabama.”

The Voting Rights Practice Group will continue the SPLC’s work toward ending the lifetime voting ban for people with felony convictions and registering both those who have completed their sentences and those in jails and prisons who remain eligible to vote.  The practice group, which will advocate for full democratic participation in the Deep South and throughout the country, will also expand on the SPLC’s voting rights work to denounce partisan gerrymandering and advocate for the expansion of the Voting Rights Act and other legal protections at the federal level.

“At the SPLC, we believe that voting is a human right and that robust access to the franchise strengthens our democracy, our culture and our communities,” said Abudu, who leads the Voting Rights Practice Group. “We also know full well that our nation’s history is inextricably linked with generations of struggle to expand voting rights. To this day, communities of color, young people and people experiencing poverty are routinely disenfranchised by discriminatory laws and partisan gerrymandering. For all of our efforts, the legacy of Jim Crow is still with us.”

As a civil rights organization in the Deep South, the SPLC has been committed to expanding access to the ballot for more than four decades. The Voting Rights Practice Group will seek to combat onerous registration and strict ballot requirements that are designed to decrease voter participation. The Voting Rights Practice Group will pay particular attention to restoring the right to vote for people with felony convictions, preventing voter purges and absentee ballot restrictions and ensuring disability rights.  

With the 2020 Census and redistricting cycle for federal, state and local legislative districts quickly approaching, the SPLC will ensure that historically disenfranchised communities are educated about the redistricting process and trained on how to play a significant role in drawing their own political boundaries. The SPLC will also assist those communities in identifying and remedying violations that prevent them from casting ballots.

Further, the SPLC will engage in legislative efforts to expand access to the democratic process, including automatic voter registration, same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, vote by mail, and expanding early voting or, in states such as Alabama and Mississippi, finally establishing those practices used widely by neighboring states that allow more people to vote.

“The SPLC, through our Civil Rights Memorial Center, honors the civil rights martyrs who gave their lives so that all people would have access to the ballot box,” said Karen Baynes-Dunning, interim president and CEO of the SPLC. “We must continue to honor their sacrifice by fighting back against the recent surge in voter suppression, spurred on by the Trump administration's dishonest and shameful accusations of unfounded voter fraud. We fight for voting rights because the future of our democracy is at stake.”