The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits racial discrimination in voting. One provision specifically outlaws literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disenfranchise racial minorities. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, it led to the mass enfranchisement of racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South.
The Voting Rights Act also contains “special provisions” that apply to only certain jurisdictions that engaged in egregious voting discrimination. A core special provision is the Section 5 preclearance requirement, which prohibits these jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C. Another provision requires jurisdictions containing significant language minority populations to provide bilingual ballots and other election materials. However in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional, making Section 5 unenforceable.
Voter fraud is often cited as a reason for stricter voter ID laws. However instances of actual fraud are extremely rare. More than 100 million votes are cast in each presidential election and during the administration of President George W. Bush, the Justice Department pursued a crackdown. In the first five years, 120 people were charged and 86 convicted.
The New York Times
A recent audit in North Carolina found that out of 4,769,640 votes cast, 508 votes were illegible. 441 of these were convicted felons, 41 were citizens of other countries, 24 cases of double voting and 2 cases of voter impersonation – leaving 4,769,132 legitimate votes.
North Carolina State Board of Elections
Approximately 11% of Americans, lack a government-issued photo ID, even though they are registered to vote.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University
Expenses incurred by obtaining the needed documentation, include traveling and waiting at government offices and can range from $175 to $1,500, when factoring in the legal fees related to obtaining vital records such as birth certificates and naturalization papers. These costs are much more than the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th Amendment because of its unfairness to the poor and minorities.
The Institute for Race & Justice at the Harvard Law School
Today approximately 4 million Americans, 1 in every 40 adults – an average of 2.5%, cannot cast a ballot because they’re on probation or parole, or live in a state that withholds the right to vote from all ex-felons.
The Sentencing Project
The number of Americans denied voting rights continues to grow despite the general easing of barriers to voting for people with criminal records. In 1976, there were fewer than 1.2 million disenfranchised Americans. Researchers link this growth to the expanding number of people incarcerated or under some form of supervised release.
Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation and the overall disenfranchisement rate is 3.28%. This includes those not only serving time, but also those on probation or parole.
A majority of felons and ex-cons blocked from voting reside in a core of 7 Southern states — Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia — where more than 3 million people are banned from the rolls.
Maine and Vermont are the only states permitting felons to vote from behind bars. 11 states take away the franchise for life, although some allow ex-felons to appeal for the right to be restored.
Disenfranchisement & Race
1.4 million voting-age black men — more than 1 in 8 — will be ineligible to cast ballots because of state laws that strip felons of the right to vote
7% of blacks are disenfranchised compared to 1.8% of the rest of the country.
Disenfranchised black males account for 35% of all Americans now barred from voting because of felony convictions. 2% of all Americans, or 3.9 million, have lost the right to vote, compared with 13% of adult black men.
1 in every 13 African Americans in the U. S. – an average of 7.66% — can’t vote because of felony convictions
The Sentencing Project
In Virginia, 20% of blacks can’t vote. In Florida, the number is 23%.
In Florida and Alabama, 31%, adult black men cannot vote, while in Mississippi it is 29%. In Virginia, 25% of otherwise eligible black men cannot vote.
Around the world, there are 52 authoritative regimes around the world, including Chad, Congo, North Korea, Russia Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen, home to 2.6 billion people.
Of the 25 “full democracies” in the world, the U.S. ranks 18th — behind Uruguay and the United Kingdom — due to political polarization and low voter turnout.