Ethnic Media Group Say New Laws Disenfranchising Minority Voters

Community News


A surge of suppressive voting laws was the center of concern at a conference led by New American Media, a nationwide association of over 3,000 ethnic media organizations, and New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, 3 p.m. Wednesday, as policy analysts shimmied over 24 suppressive laws and two executive actions that may make voting difficult for minorities, opponents of the laws said.

The discussion - which comes at the heels of the presidential election and in midst of a spotlight on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s sweep of the Republican primaries - shed light upon voting laws that impose stricter controls at the ballot box and call for

These strict controls, adopted by states such as Texas, South Carolina, and Florida, call for mandatory federal identification, documented proof of citizenship, and cuts to early voting – steps opponents believe target minorities, particularly African Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, and the poor.

“It’s the biggest setback in voting rights in decades,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said. “States should not gratuitously disenfranchise votes, cherry pick certain groups, eliminate exemption or voting procedures, and get rid of fail-safe procedures.”

In Florida, civic groups – like the League of Women Voters of Florida - cannot directly help voters – many of whom are minorities who depend on civic groups for assistance at voting booths, resulting in a drop of 81,000 voters, the New York Times reports.

Photo-ID laws have also become very stringent, mandating state-issued licenses and additional government records, raising concerns for many minorities who live far from election booths. Virginia Democrats urged Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to veto a pair of similar voter ID bills, Friday, after the General Assembly stripped the governor’s provision to make the measures more lenient. Over 11 percent of citizens – many of whom are minorities - do not carry state issued IDs.

These concerns rewind into glimpses of a past mired with discrimination of minorities – even after the milestone reauthorization and bi-partisanship push of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“We now see that it is still needed because discrimination against minority voters continues in this state today,” Senior Counsel of the Brennan Center with my life Myrna Perez said.

The Voting Rights Act contains a key provision – Section 5 – which requires certification and pre-approval of presentation materials prior to the event.  This process, known as the pre-clearance process, reveals that 4 out of 17 states have challenged the constitutionality of the law.

State Representative Trey Martinez Fisher and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus said these groups are playing a delay game in an effort to slow litigation in cases with the Supreme Court.

It is also unclear why these states were fighting to uphold the constitutionality of these laws, discounting voter fraud as an option given that there has only been one confirmed case of voter election out of a 3.7 million-person majority.

Despite this lack of clarity, Fisher believes these delays are part of a bureaucratic plan, in which legislators have often redrawn districts to loosely cherry-pick one or two cherries until mommy comes home – a case which Fisher says can easily transfer to the politics of voter elections and cut back on already stagnating voter turnouts. 

“America has made great progress in guaranteeing the civil rights of our citizens,” Perez said. “We cannot afford to turn back the clock to a new era.”