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.
61% of the eligible voters participated in the recent Presidential election. The U.S. ranks 26th out of the 35 democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Typically Americans 18–29 years old do not exercise their right to vote nearly as much as Americans 65 and older.
13 states and the District of Columbia allow registration or pre-registration at age 16. Studies show that voting behavior is habit-forming: Those who start voting at an early age are more likely to continue doing so for the rest of their lives.
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.
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.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity established after the 2016 election, was dissolved in 2018 having found no evidence of voter fraud.
36 states have voter ID laws, requiring some form of government-issued identification at the polls.
21 states offer election-day voter registration.
There is strong evidence that same day and election day registration increases voter turnout. On average, voter turnout in these states is 5% higher than in states without.
Approximately 11% of Americans, lack a government-issued photo ID, even though they are registered to vote.
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.
In 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder, that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional.
Since the Shelby decision at least 13 states have removed eligible voters from the rolls and 16 states called for a photo ID to vote.
An estimated 19 million potential voters do not possess either a driver’s license or a state issued ID.
Around 4 million U.S. citizens living in Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico are not allowed to vote for president unless they move to the mainland.
Approximately 6 million Americans or 1 in every 40, is prevented from voting due to a felony conviction. This amount is higher than the popular vote difference that separated major party candidates in the 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.
Oklahoma now has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., unseating Louisiana from its long-held position as “the world’s prison capital.” The overall disenfranchisement rate there is 1.8%.
Disenfranchisement & Race
A recent study found that strict voter ID laws significantly increased the turnout gap between white voters and Latinx, African-American and multiracial voters.
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. This compares with the 1.8% of the rest of the country.
In 2012, on average, blacks had to wait in line twice as long as whites. Nationwide, whites who lived in white neighborhoods had the shortest wait time – 7 minutes.
7% of Americans — about 23,000,000 people — mostly minorities, do not have citizenship documents readily available.
The turnout gaps between white and ethnic minority voters are far higher in states where people must show ID during or after voting. There is a 4.9% gap between Latino and white voters in states that do not require an ID, but a 13.2% difference in states that do. For African Americans, the gap rises from 2.9% to 5.4% & among Asians the gap increases from 6.5% to 11.5%.
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.