Get Involved With the Fight to Restore America’s Voting Rights

After President Obama’s election in 2008, some state legislatures responded to the increased turnout among young people and people of color by attempting to curb voting rights.

The wave of voter suppression measures accelerated after the 2010 elections, with politicians enacting new laws that made it more difficult to register to vote and curtailed access to the ballot box. This effort got a boost from the Trump administration, which launched its own attacks on voting rights. Following President Trump’s baseless claim that 3 to 5 million people committed voter fraud during the 2016 election, the administration created the sham Pence-Kobach commission to push for restrictive voting laws.

Get Involved – Take Action to Defend Voting Rights Near You

Voting restrictions disproportionately affect the elderly, low-income voters, young people, people with disabilities and communities of color. Many places that have imposed such restrictions also have a long and shameful history of racial discrimination. In the face of these growing attacks on constitutional rights, it is time to go on offense.

The ACLU’s Let People Vote campaign intends to ensure that every American's right to vote is protected.

This 50-state movement will work to strengthen our democracy by lengthening early voting periods, making voter registration more accessible, establishing independent and nonpartisan redistricting commissions, restoring voting rights for disenfranchised communities and continuing to combat attempts at voter suppression, such as discriminatory voter ID requirements and voter purges.

In order to expand access to the ballot, activists across the country will work on a range of issues as part of this campaign:

Election reform

One way to make sure that everyone can exercise the right to cast a ballot is by passing common sense proposals like allowing early voting,  permitting all voters to use absentee ballots without having to provide a justification, Election Day voter registration, online voter registration and automatic voter registration.

Such measures increase turnout by removing unnecessary obstacles.  For example, states that allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day have seen higher voter turnouts than states which prohibit it.

Voting rights restoration

More than 6 million people can’t vote because of past criminal convictions.  These individuals often have little or no way to restore their voting rights. Many voter disenfranchisement laws are carryovers from the post-Civil War “Black Codes,” which sharply curtailed the ability of African Americans to participate in public life.

When Florida decided to ban people who had felony convictions from voting in 1868,  it also enacted draconian laws that sent many black people into the prison  system simply for being poor or not having a job and heightened the penalties for petty crimes.

Today, disenfranchisement laws continue to fuel racial disparities in voting by disproportionally affecting African Americans, and all but two states have some form of such laws on the books.

In Florida, People Power activists are working with Floridians for a Fair Democracy to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to end Florida’s lifetime prohibition on voting for people with certain felony convictions, which bars 1.5 million Floridians — 10 percent  of Florida’s adults and a quarter of the nation’s disenfranchised population — from voting.  In addition to Florida, we will be working in nine other states to restore voting rights.

Redistricting reform

One way politicians have been able to reshape the electorate to their liking is through the redistricting process. Gerrymandering is done to protect incumbent lawmakers, especially when they are members of the party in power. This practice  creates legislative districts that are  so uncompetitive that it discourages voter participation.

Redistricting practices often harm minority voters by diluting their vote and carving up urban areas.  In May, the Supreme Court knocked down two congressional district maps in North Carolina that revealed racial gerrymandering that weakened Black representation.

The drawing of district maps should be done by transparent entities that prioritize community input over undue partisanship.  Such a change would go a long way in making sure that all people are fairly represented in government.

Combating voter suppression

State lawmakers have used a wide variety of tactics to curtail voting, including improper purges of voter rolls, cuts to early voting periods and the number of polling places, and imposing arbitrary photo ID requirements.

African Americans, Latinos, young people, the elderly, people who live in cities and people with disabilities are much more likely to be harmed by such policies, which are typically designed to suppress their vote. To ensure that every eligible voter can cast a ballot, the Let People Vote campaign will work in every state to expand voting rights.  

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Melinda

The way many laws are written, regarding regaining the right to vote after serving a prison term, patently discriminates against those with low incomes, because they are required to pay substantial fines and costs. Add that to the difficulty in getting good employment after a prison sentence, and low income individuals--who have served whatever time they were sentenced to--remain disenfranchised, often permanently.

Mark A Palmer

Treating all felons equally violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment. However, being subject to certain restrictions after being released from prison does not; provided that the time associated with these restrictions depends on the offense. Requiring supervised release and a time period of good behavior after such supervision makes sense. Gradual restoration of rights also makes sense; provided that there is no cost for such restoration. The restoration should be part of the rehabilitation process. After the period of good behavior the felony should be expunged, again at no cost.

I do believe that the time periods should be based on the prison sentence. For example a Class A Felony might require a sentence of 25 years to life. A Class E Felony might require a sentence of 1-3 years. Requiring the former to complete 25 years of supervised release followed by 25 years of good behavior, while requiring the latter to complete 3 years of supervised release followed by 3 years of good behavior; (based on comparison) would be fair, requiring the same time periods of both persons is not.

Gradual restoration could mean 1) being able to sign a petition followed by 2) being able to vote followed by 3) being able to hold office.

Anonymous

Brian, Thank you for the article and for your work. Are you familiar with the work of Prof. Moon Duchin: Math Professor Who’s Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry? Ref: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Meet-the-Math-Professor/239260

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Xenia

I had a voters registration card from my new state, mail from my new addy, but still my drivers license from the state I had just moved from. The ladies at the voting place were all set to let me vote, after I filled out a form swearing I lived here, until they found out I planned to vote for Trump. Suddenly the rules changed, I was not allowed to cast my vote.

Anonymous

"people of color"? Oh, you mean colored people.

I guess this campaign could be called the "Let dead folks continue to vote" movement. The secret ballot is just a scam to enable voting fraud. It didn't even exist in this country until 1888. Don't worry, no matter what happens, your reform or not, there will be substantial voting fraud - starting with the selection of candidates Tweedledee and Tweedledum in every election.

Anonymous

I do not understand this “voter oppression”. I watched a documentary of a reporter asking blacks if they had ID....they looked at him like he was crazy and said ofcourse we do. Seems to me you would be upset for people being made to believe that POC are too dumb to get an ID. THAT to me is insulting. Everybody knows where and how to get an ID and if they don’t then they don’t want to. It is just a way for illegal voting, everybody knows that and for you to continue down this road is ridiculous. We need ID with the likes of George Soros wanting to destroy our country. He is paying people to riot not to mention to buses filled with transportable voters. Maybe you should watch videos of the truth and how corrupt people Are. Yes, there is major voting fraud in our elections. One thing I would like for you to address is why have you not listed cases of police killing whites??? Police killed twice as many whites as blacks but can you tell me ONE name or about ONE case????

Anonymous

I do not understand this “voter oppression”. I watched a documentary of a reporter asking blacks if they had ID....they looked at him like he was crazy and said ofcourse we do. Seems to me you would be upset for people being made to believe that POC are too dumb to get an ID. THAT to me is insulting. Everybody knows where and how to get an ID and if they don’t then they don’t want to. It is just a way for illegal voting, everybody knows that and for you to continue down this road is ridiculous. We need ID with the likes of George Soros wanting to destroy our country. He is paying people to riot not to mention to buses filled with transportable voters. Maybe you should watch videos of the truth and how corrupt people Are. Yes, there is major voting fraud in our elections. One thing I would like for you to address is why have you not listed cases of police killing whites??? Police killed twice as many whites as blacks but can you tell me ONE name or about ONE case????

Anonymous

The failure of my fellow americans to see the successful suppression of hundreds of thousands of votes in our recent history is very disturbing

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