Voting Rights Hearings Reveal Widespread Suppression
Voters purged off rolls.
Bad information about voter identification requirements.
Unnecessary requests to justify an address.
These narratives are coming from places as varied as North Dakota’s Native American community to Atlanta’s metropolitan south, courtesy of the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections hearings and listening sessions.
The subcommittee, headed by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) wants to put a voice and face on what the voting process is like for some of America’s most marginalized citizens.
“It’s more difficult than in some Third World countries,” Fudge said about voting in certain communities in the United States.
As chairwoman, Fudge is spending part of this year collecting narratives and information about what voting is like for many Americans in the United States. The committee has heard witnesses in Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota and Ohio. The committee will also be holding hearings in Florida, Alabama and Washington, D.C., this year, Fudge said.
The hearings are also attended by the Racial Equity Anchors Collaborative, a group of nonprofits that includes the NAACP, and is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The spirit of the hearings is to showcase the need for additional voting rights protections for America’s most disenfranchised. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated the formula used to fight voter discrimination in the case Shelby v. Holder. Previously, areas with a history of voter discrimination had to seek a clearance before changing voting rules that could affect nonwhites. After the court’s ruling, a number states enacted voting laws that negatively affected minority communities.
Witnesses at the hearings testified about their experiences. For example, in North Dakota, a recent voter ID law requires identification. However, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe don’t use an ID to live on the reservation and many don’t own a vehicle to go to the nearest driver’s license site which is about 40 miles away. In rural Halifax County, N.C., officials shuttered two of the three early-voting sites in 2018. Many of the majority Black and economically disadvantaged households don’t have transportation. And in Texas, confusing voting requirements were placed at polling stations and Latino voters were asked for their naturalization papers by the Texas secretary of state.
“They aren’t saying that you can’t vote,” said Sheila E. Isong, national political director for civic engagement at the NAACP. “They are making it hard to vote.”
The goal is to collect 500 narratives that will be turned into a report, said Isong.
"We are building this record so that we are able to provide progressive change," Isong said. "We need people to get involved, that’s the only way we are going to be able to turn some of these things back and fight voter suppression."
Fudge said that she’d like to see Election Day become a holiday or have voting held on a Saturday to make it more accessible to the working class.
“We want the American public to know what’s going on and that we care about their right to vote,” Fudge said. “We are not sitting on the sidelines. We are on their side.”
— Natalie P. McNeal