Blog of Rights


Laughlin McDonald, a South Carolina native, received a B.A. degree from Columbia University and an LL.B. from the University of Virginia. He became the director of the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union located in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1972. He is currently special counsel and director emeritus of the Voting Rights Project. Prior to that he was in private practice and taught at the University of North Carolina Law School. He has represented minorities in numerous discrimination cases and specialized in the area of voting rights. He has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous district courts and courts of appeals, testified frequently before Congress, and written for scholarly and popular publications on numerous civil liberties issues. He is the author of several books, including A Voting Rights Odyssey: Black Enfranchisement in Georgia, and American Indians and the Fight for Equal Voting Rights.

A Jury of One's Peers

A Jury of One's Peers

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 11:20am
The ACLU has worked over the years to remove barriers to women serving on juries. Under English common law, which was the basis for early American law, women, except in a small category of cases, were deemed unfit to serve on juries under the doctrine of propter defectum sexus, a "defect of sex."
Supreme Court Put a Dagger in the Heart of the Voting Rights Act

Supreme Court Put a Dagger in the Heart of the Voting Rights Act

By Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 1:54pm

While the 15th Amendment was adopted in 1870 and prohibited denial of the right to vote on account of race or color, in reality, many African-Americans were only able to vote within recent memory -- less than 50 years ago, with the passage of the Voting…

Why The Voting Rights Act Matters

Why The Voting Rights Act Matters

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project & Eunice Hyon Min Rho, ACLU at 11:19am

During the signing ceremony of the Voting Rights Act, President Lyndon B. Johnson characterized the law as "one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom." Since that day, this landmark civil rights law has steadily and…

Don't Strike Down Section 5

Don't Strike Down Section 5

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 5:20pm

Hans von Spakovsky, in his recent article in the National Review, “Strike Down Section 5,” gets it wrong when he says the Supreme Court should hold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional in the case now pending before it, Shelby County,…

Voting in Florida: From Bad to Worse

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 3:37pm

Wilbertine Berkley is one of hundreds of thousands of Floridians with past felony convictions whose voting rights are in peril. After struggling with substance abuse, Wilbertine has served her time, enrolled in college and become a volunteer…

Keep an Eye Out for Voter Suppression

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 3:00pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

It seems each day brings a new story about allegations of fraud during ACORN's voter registration drives. But what is often left out is that there is absolutely no credible evidence that phony registrations…

Preparing for the 2008 Election: If You See Something, Say Something

By Laughlin McDonald, Voting Rights Project at 10:29am
voting rights

The 2008 general election is upon us, and if the past is prelude to the future, some things will go wrong. Undoubtedly some of the things that went wrong in the past might reoccur this November. This isn't a complete list of what can go wrong, but keep an eye out for:

  • Poll-watching activities that go beyond mere observation and become harassment
  • Disinformation campaigns
  • Moving polling places on short notice or without sufficient warning
  • Polling place issues like unusual hours, lack of access to centralized voter registration records, problems in casting provisional ballots, understaffed or untrained poll workers.
  • Malfunctioning voting machines, caused by human errors and/or flawed technology.
  • "Caging" of minority voters - sending them do-not-forward letters so that if returned they can be used to challenge them as nonresidents.
  • Unfounded accusations of fraud in minority voter registration designed to remove minorities from the voter rolls and deter turnout on Election Day.
  • The wrongful purging of voters from the registration rolls.
  • Not allowing people to vote who were in line before the polls closed.

Although this list is long, there are many things we can do to help ensure a fair election.

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