Marking three years since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted important protections from the 1965 Voting Rights Act, civil rights advocates this weekend are demanding that Congress restore those provisions and put a stop to rampant voter suppression efforts before November's presidential election.
"It is very clear that the Shelby v. Holder decision precipitated voter suppression laws by state legislatures across the country to intentionally disenfranchise people of color and millennials and silence their voices at the polls," declared Stephen A. Green, national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division.
Advocates, including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are calling on lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would "repair much of the damage done by the Supreme Court."
Put forth by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), the bill would "require federal screening of elections in states with at least 15 voting rights violations—or at least 10 local violations and one statewide violation— over the last 25 years," USA Today reports. "Under that criteria, 13 states— Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia—would qualify immediately."
"During the 2016 presidential primary elections, people across the country were denied the right to vote and removed from voting rolls," states an ACLU petition supporting that legislation. "We cannot let this be the first presidential election in 50 years without full protections for voters of color."
Recently passed measures blocking same day voter registration or requiring certain forms of voter ID are having a clear impact on largely Democratic voting blocs. During the 2012 election, 47 percent of young voters registered at polling cites. Of all eligible voters, a full 21 percent are age 18-29.
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What's more, requirements that photo IDs must show voters' current address significantly affects young voters who are more likely to change addresses, as well as minority, poor, and elderly voters, who often don't have the resources to obtain updated documents.
Seventeen states have new voting restrictions in place, just in time for the current presidential election cycle. And according to journalist Ari Berman, who recently authored Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, these states could determine who wins come November.
"These states comprise 189 electoral votes — nearly half of the Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency — and include crucial swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia," Berman wrote at Rolling Stone this week. "Such efforts have been overwhelmingly backed by Republicans to target Democratically leaning constituencies, particularly people of color and young voters."
"This is not the voter suppression of a seemingly ancient civil rights era, but rather Jim Crow 2.0 in 2016," said Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. "This is not your grandparents white versus black voter suppression, but rather a multigenerational older versus younger, as well as race-based voter suppression."
"When college IDs are not honored at the ballot box, but concealed weapons permits are, when polling places are moved off college campuses, when DMVs are closed at the moment when high school seniors are getting a license for the prom or an ID to vote, this is nothing less than a generational assault against young voters," he continued.
Brooks said that "this kind of voter suppression is not partisan gamesmanship, but rather the corruption of our democracy. The NAACP is opposed to race-driven voter suppression and youth-targeted voter suppression. In this first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, with millions of millennials being the largest voting bloc, we can do no less."