Report Focuses on Problems that Have Emerged on the Ground in Georgia in Wake of Shelby County v. Holder Ruling
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) released a new report, “Voting Rights Communication Pipelines: Georgia After Shelby County v. Holder” – examining Georgia, one of fourteen states that was subject to protections provided by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, before the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gutted this key provision in Shelby County v. Holder.
“We are now seeing the proliferation of voter suppression laws across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2103 Shelby County decision,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “In Georgia, we have seen the purging of African-American voters from the registration rolls in Hancock County, an effort to move a polling site out of a majority Black neighborhood and into a local sheriff’s office in Macon-Bibb County, and an effort to move forward with burdensome documentary proof of citizenship requirements for people seeking to register to vote. The 2016 presidential election is the first in more than 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act and Georgia illustrates why powerful federal remedies remain necessary to safeguard minority voting rights today.”
The report examines Georgia’s substantial history of voting discrimination against African-Americans and racial and ethnic minorities, the resources needed to combat the voter suppression efforts on the ground and the importance of building a volunteer base to monitor and report voting rights violations. The report also provides an overview of how an effective pipeline between local and national coalition partners, which leverages the complementary strengths of each organization, can be used to implement action plans to remedy discriminatory voting changes in the wake of the Shelby decision. The brief looks at Hancock County, Georgia and Macon-Bibb County, Georgia, where the Lawyers’ Committee worked with on-the-ground partners including the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and New Georgia Project to combat voting discrimination.
Between 1992 and 2012, under the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice issued 37 objections to discriminatory voting changes across the state of Georgia, effectively blocking efforts that would have made voting more difficult for African-Americans and other minority communities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia’s African-American voting age population (VAP) is nearly 29 percent, more than double the national Black VAP of 11.6 percent.
“Through our relationships and work with local partners, we always have one ear to the ground,” said Julie Houk, senior special counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project. “The pipeline that we have created over the years allows us to quickly learn about issues in rural counties and local elections that we may not hear about without these relationships. This channel allows us to step in and ensure that all eligible voters have access to the ballot box.”
The three years from the time of the Shelby County decision have been marked by litigation and advocacy efforts aimed at confronting new voting rights challenges that have emerged since the Supreme Court’s June 2013 ruling. The Lawyers Committee is also working to advocate that Congress act on the bills before it to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.
To read the full report, click here.