“If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. It marries two great ideals: democracy and racial equality ... If a single statute reminds us of the worst of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. Because it was — and remains — so necessary.
“[President] Johnson called the statute ‘one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom.’”
—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, dissenting, in Brnovitch v. Democratic National Committee, July 1, 2021.
Justice Kagan, in her recent dissent cited above, penned a most eloquent history and explanation of why and how enforcement of Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is critical to maintaining a true democracy in our country. Sadly, her dissent was in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent majority ruling in Brnovitch v. DNC, which turned blindfolded eyes to the realities of the current epidemic of voter suppression and racial discrimination. In Brnovitch, the Court drastically eroded the power of Section 2, undermining the Act and threatening American democracy by sanctioning the very discriminatory processes that Congress and President Lyndon Johnson intended the Voting Rights Act to abolish.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan: “If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act.” Courtesy of The Onion.
How could this be happening? A disastrous perfect storm. The prior president, sore loser of November 2020’s presidential election, seized the opportunity to protect his fragile ego by perpetuating a blatant, giant lie of lost or miscounted votes. His act of wounded pride not only distracted from his obvious failure to win, but also laid the poisonous groundwork for the disintegration of the Voting Rights Act through perpetuating a false narrative that “voter fraud” ran rampant in U.S. elections. This was a lie that even his own administration staff contradicted: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.” Indeed, the 2020 Presidential Election was, “the most secure in American history” (statement by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), November 12, 2020).
Americans now find themselves at an unfortunate crossroads that threatens the key foundation of our country — democracy itself. Ten years ago, savvy Republicans used the gerrymandering/redistricting process throughout our country to skew voting districts unfairly and radically in their favor (while Democrats slept at the wheel). This disproportionately and unfairly strengthened their voting representation in Congress — and weakened the fair representation of many more votes present in larger communities of color. Now, because of gerrymandering, the “one-person, one-vote” rule is a joke. Instead, partisan politics has manipulated voting districts and counties, and in worshiping the false god of “voter integrity,” the power afforded by such district manipulation is now distorting and destroying voting processes such that white-dominated Republicans, politicians and populations may well unfairly prevail in our elections.
The numbers don’t lie. This is our democracy, stupid. It’s time to wake up.
Photo courtesy of Business Mayor.
By the Numbers
Number of states that have enacted laws restricting voter access since the 2020 election – 17
Number of laws restricting voter access that have been passed since the 2020 election - 28
Number of states currently proposing new bills to limit early or absentee voting – 33
Number of Americans who voted in the November 3, 2020 election - 159.6 million
Voters who used early or absentee voting to cast their 2020 votes in states that are now passing new legislation to eliminate these voting methods - 85 million
Voters who now may be forced to appear in person and wait in lines on Election Day to vote because of the elimination of early or absentee voting in their state - 85 million
Number of harsh new voter restrictions proposed by 2021 Texas Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 (including allowing partisan poll watchers to hover over voters, banning drive-through voting, prohibiting early voting hours, allowing video surveillance of voters, and making it a state felony for election officials to distribute unsolicited mail-in ballot applications) - 10
Number of Democratic members of the Texas Senate currently out of state, thereby denying Texas Republicans the necessary quorum to pass laws severely restricting Texan voters’ abilities to vote - 60
Total percentage of Georgia residents voting by mail in the 2020 General Election – 25%
Percentage of White Georgia voters voting by mail in the 2020 General Election – 24%
Percentage of Black Georgia voters voting by mail in the 2020 General Election – 30%
Number of new voting restrictions proposed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (including: (1) less time to request absentee ballots; (2) stricter ID requirements for absentee ballots; (3) prohibition of election officials sending out absentee ballot applications to all voters; (4) limiting ballot drop boxes; (5) banning mobile voting sites; (6) blocking ability to vote if you go to the wrong polling place; (7) prohibiting the ability to provide food and water to people waiting in line to vote; and (8) prohibiting early in-person voting on Sundays) – 8
Percentage of Americans who lack a government-issued form of identification – 11%
Percentage of whites of voting age who lack a government-issued form of photo identification – 8%
Percentage of blacks of voting age who lack a government-issued form of photo identification – 25%
Average wait time in minutes for white Georgians to wait to vote after the polls closed in the June 2020 primary – 6
Average wait time in minutes for non-white Georgians to wait to vote after the polls closed in the June 2020 primary – 51
Number of post-November 2020 election lawsuits filed alleging voter fraud – 86
Number of post-November 2020 election lawsuits filed alleging voter fraud that were denied, dropped, or dismissed for lack of evidence – 85
Number of post-November 2020 election lawsuits alleging voter fraud that succeeded - 1
Number of successful post-November 2020 election lawsuits alleging voter fraud that succeeded but were later overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court – 1
Number of electoral votes changed as the result of Trump's efforts to: invalidate the election because of false allegations of “voter fraud” - 0
Percentage of new restrictive voting laws proposed to preserve “election integrity” based on unsubstantiated allegations of “voter fraud” – 100
Number of state legislative maps redrawn after 2011 with extreme partisan gerrymandering – 45
Number of redrawn state legislative maps favoring Republicans – 43
Number of redrawn state legislative maps favoring Democrats - 2
Number of states in 2017-18 which Republicans gained power despite losing the statewide popular vote, strictly because of partisan gerrymandering – 4
Number of states that would have been required to use independent commissions rather than partisan lawmakers/gerrymandering to draw congressional maps pursuant to the “H.R. 1 - For the People Act,” passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020– 50
Number of Republican Senators needed to block “H.R. 1 - For the People Act” – 1 (Senator Mitch McConnell)
Number of states in 2021 that will determined legislative voting districts via impartial, non-partisan commissions or non-legislature systems for redistricting – 7
Number of states in 2021 that will continue to determine legislative voting districts and perpetuate gerrymandering via a partisan, political process - 43
Number of voter suppression bills identified by the Brennan Center for Justice, as of May 2021, that have been introduced by state Republican lawmakers designed to restrict access to the ballot box, as well as thwart voters’ abilities to challenge such restrictions in the courts - 360
This political cartoon, "The Gerry-Mander," was published in 1812, after Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry signed a bill that redrew the state's voting districts in a way that benefited his party. One of the new districts was likened to a salamander. That combined with Gov. Gerry's name is how the practice became known as gerrymandering. (Wikimedia Commons)
Summer 2021 Voter Oppression Index Sources