More than half a century after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, vulnerable communities across the country continue to face challenges in achieving equal voting rights and full political participation, a report from the Transformative Justice Coalition and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation finds.
Based on a literature review, interviews with legal and policy experts, and focus groups with voting rights organizers, the report, Fostering an Inclusive Democracy – A Strategic Vision to Protect & Expand Voting Rights (156 pages, PDF), found that in the aftermath of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder — a ruling that struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act – people of color, youth, students, the elderly, the poor, language minorities, people with disabilities, and the formerly incarcerated have been negatively affected by restrictive voting laws and procedures. In part as a result of such restrictions, more than fifty-one million Americans eligible to vote, or 24 percent of the voting-age population, are not registered to vote. To address these challenges, the report recommends strategic interventions in two areas: dismantling voting barriers and promoting civic engagement.
Recommendations for removing barriers to voting include a new amendment to the Voting Rights Act that would restore and strengthen its provisions, a Native American Voting Rights Act, enhanced voter protection litigation, and a new national monitoring system of electoral and procedural changes. Recommendations for bolstering civic engagement include supporting reforms that allow same-day and online voter registration, investing in public education programs, expanding candidate development programs, and promoting engagement efforts targeting African-American, Latino, and Native American youth and African-American women. The report includes case studies of voter suppression efforts and counter-strategies in New Orleans, Mississippi, Michigan, and New Mexico.
As most organizations working to ensure the protection of voting rights are "resource deprived," the report also calls for a new strategic framework that includes infrastructural support, maximum coordination of campaigns and programmatic activities, the forging of multiracial coalitions, and a focus on strategic communications.