Why It Matters
Voter suppression is any attempt to prevent or discourage certain Americans from registering to vote or casting their ballot. These measures often target specific groups based on race, ethnicity, political affiliation, age, or other aspects of voters’ identities. The most widely used forms of voter suppression include discriminatory voter ID and proof-of-citizenship restrictions, reduced polling place hours in communities of color, the elimination of early voting opportunities, and illegal purges of voters from the rolls.
Historically, voter suppression has overwhelmingly targeted Black Americans. After the Civil War, Black men were able to participate in elections once the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted in 1870, which states:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Voter suppression in southern states raged in the form of laws to prevent poor and Black voters from participating in elections. These laws, known as Jim Crow laws, included poll taxes and literacy tests. Many of these voter suppression strategies remained in place until the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act.
In 2013, the US Supreme Court removed key protections of the Voting Rights Act in the decision of Shelby v. Holder. Since then, a surge of anti-voter bills have swept across our nation– with many being legalized.
The League will not stand for this.
In response to an unprecedented number of voters (particularly Black and brown voters) participating in the 2020 election, and a historic, party-flipping Senatorial election, Georgian officials signed a bill, SB 202, into law that reduced the number of ballot boxes in communities of color, limited voting hours, added additional voter ID requirements, and made it illegal to provide those waiting in line with food or water, among other measures.
The provisions in SB 202 would not only eliminate Georgia’s growth in voter participation, but would take voting rights backward in the state, particularly for voters of color, who were directly targeted by the bill. The League of Women Voters of Georgia joined partners, including the Georgia NAACP and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, in filing a lawsuit to prevent enforcement of the law.
In 2021, Texas legislators passed bills limiting citizens' capacity to vote and expanding protection for partisan “poll watchers.” Partisan poll watchers are volunteers deployed by major parties to observe the voting and vote counting processes. Many people consider the presence of poll watchers to be a form of voter intimidation.
In addition to granting poll watchers new access, protection, and power, the bills limited mail-in voting and early voting hours and restricted in-person voter assistance for people with disabilities or those requiring support in the voting process. The bills inspired half of Texas’s legislature to flee to DC to block their passage; despite efforts to block these provisions, the voter suppressing bills were signed into law.
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What We're Doing
The League is at the forefront of the most important federal and state cases across the United States. Our legal team works tirelessly to oppose all forms of voter suppression, including:
Discriminatory voter ID laws;
Attacks on voter registration;
Last-minute Election Day barriers;
The elimination of voting locations in underserved communities;
Unjust voter purges; and
Attempts to limit access to early and mail-in voting.
Advocating to End Voter Suppression
We support legislation that empowers Americans to participate in the voting process. These include:
The Washington, DC Admission Act: Over 700,000 DC residents pay taxes, are eligible for the military draft, and contribute to our nation and their community the same as residents of every other state, yet they are without full representation in Congress. The majority of these Americans are people of color. We support full statehood and representation for the people of DC.
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NASHVILLE – The League of Women Voters of Tennessee and Tennessee voters Victor Ashe and Phil Lawson filed a federal lawsuit today challenging state laws that require voters to be “bona fide” members of a political party to vote in the state’s open primary elections. Plaintiffs argue that the laws create confusion and intimidation because voters in Tennessee do not register with a party and there is no way to determine what “bona fide” means. The plaintiffs are represented by the law firms Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison, Baker Donelson and Sidley Austin LLP, and Protect Democracy.
Lawsuit challenging the Texas’s voter suppression legislation, Senate Bill 1, which imposes strict ID requirements for mail-in ballots, a restriction on helping voters who need help completing or returning their ballots and ballot collection ban.
The League of Women Voters of the United States issued the following statement after the Eighth Circuit of Appeals ruled there is no “private right of action” for Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
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