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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Voting Rights

The basis and foundation of our democratic form of government is the right to vote.  Voting is one of the most important tools Americans have to influence the policies the government adopts.  Unfortunately, many Americans are effectively denied their right to vote.

Voting Rights for Today

The Supreme Court's June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision is an enormous setback for votings rights in the U.S. We must respond to ensure that each American can enjoy his or her right to vote—free of discrimination. Get involved at www.VRAforToday.org.  


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Henderson and Zirkin Honored in the Fight for D.C. Voting Rights

October 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Andrea Roane, Ilir Zherka, Nancy Zirkin, Wade Henderson, and Bruce Spiva posing with Champions of Democracy Award

(l to r) Andrea Roane of WUSA-9 News, DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka, LCCR Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin, LCCR President and CEO Wade Henderson, and DC Vote Board Chair Bruce Spiva

Last night, LCCR President and CEO Wade Henderson and LCCR Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin were honored by DC Vote for their efforts to pass D.C. voting rights legislation.

Henderson, Zirkin and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D. Mich., were presented with 2009 Champions of Democracy Awards for their "dedication to fulfilling the promise of democracy for the Americans who call Washington, D.C., home." DC Vote also presented Akridge Real Estate, a Washington commercial real estate firm, with its Corporate Partnership Award.

In accepting the honor, Henderson, a D.C. native, emphasized the importance of continuing the fight to secure full voting representation in Congress for the District. "For all the progress we've made in D.C. and as a nation, my hundreds of thousands of neighbors in this city and I have been mere spectators to our democracy for more than 200 years. And that won't change as long as citizens of the District of Columbia continue to be deprived of the most important civil right that Americans have: the right to vote," said Henderson.

"This year, we came closer than we've ever been to securing voting rights for the residents of the District of Columbia...we still have a long way to go. But with your help and the efforts of DC Vote and the civil rights community, we'll get there," said Zirkin.

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Indiana Court of Appeals Declares Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

September 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The law, which is the most restrictive voter ID law in the United States, requires Indiana voters to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a state driver's ID or a U.S. passport, to cast a ballot. Provisional ballots are available to voters who don't bring a photo ID to the poll, but a provisional ballot will be counted only after the voter provides proof of identity at the local county election office within 10 days of the election.

In addition, driver's licenses and state-issued IDs must be renewed periodically, and people must re-register to vote whenever they move or change their name or the ID is not valid for voting.

A recent study conducted by the Washington Institute for Ethnicity and Race found that the highest percentages of eligible Indiana voters without a valid photo ID were minorities, seniors, young people, less-educated people, and low-income people.   Proponents of voter ID laws say that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud.  However, the study found no instances of voter fraud in Indiana.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution.  The appeals court looked at a different question – whether the law violated the Indiana state constitution.  Even though the law does not violate federal law, it does violate state law.  The state will likely seek a stay of the appellate court decision, delaying action until it comes under review by the Indiana State Supreme Court.

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New Bipartisan Committee Aims to Revamp Voter Registration

September 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The Committee to Modernize Voter Registration, a bipartisan group of election and campaign experts and former Republican and Democratic congressmen, aims to fix the nation's broken voter registration system.  In 2008, four to five million voters faced registration issues that ultimately prevented them from casting a ballot.

The committee says that the two biggest problems with the current system are paper registration forms and the time constraints of the registration process.  Paper registration forms are handwritten, often making it difficult for information to be accurately read or universally accessible.  The system isn't properly set up to handle the sudden flood of incoming registration forms that arrive in the final days before the registration deadline.  Both of these problems also make it difficult for someone to verify or correct their own registration information in time to cast a vote.

Jonah Goldman, who serves as strategic advisor to the committee, notes that "the system is problematic for all, but impacts young voters, military members, lower income voters, those who move, and voters of color more often than most."  Goldman doesn't blame these problems on the election officials, but instead on the design of the system.  "Election officials are not the problem; they are doing all that they can do, but they are unnecessarily strained."

The committee says that using existing government databases to automatically register voters could eliminate many of these problems.  Databases would also remove artificial registration deadlines, save states money, and eliminate the need for third party groups to spend precious time and funds on registration efforts.

Congress is currently considering legislation to modernize voter registration.  The committee will provide input and expertise to Congress, as well as individual states that may be considering similar legislation.

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LCCR President Wade Henderson and LCCR Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin among DC Vote's 2009 Champions of Democracy Awardees

September 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Wade Henderson and Nancy Zirkin speaking

DC Vote has selected LCCR President Wade Henderson and LCCR Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin as recipients of its 2009 Champions of Democracy Award for their commitment to achieving full democracy for the District of Columbia.

In announcing the award, DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka said Zirkin and Henderson's "exemplary dedication to civil and human rights issues is apparent through their tireless work to pass D.C. voting rights legislation. They have been loyal champions of this cause, and we are extremely appreciative of their efforts." 

Henderson and Zirkin will be honored with fellow awardees Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., and Alkridge Real Estate at the Champions of Democracy Awards Dinner on October 13 in Washington, D.C. 

Champions of Democracy are selected for "their dedication to fulfilling the promise of democracy and for the many ways they celebrate the rich heritage and vibrant communities of Washington, D.C."

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Today in Civil Rights History: 19th Amendment Gives Women the Right to Vote

August 26, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ratified in 1920, the amendment gave women the right to vote. Women had been gaining suffrage, or the right to vote, on a state-by-state basis throughout the early 20th century, but the amendment granted all U.S. women full voting rights.

The amendment's ratification was the culmination of the Women's Suffrage Movement. Women's suffrage was first proposed in 1848 by participants of the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, which included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

The movement picked up steam when Alice Paul, president of the National Women's Party, lead eight thousand women in picketing the White House the day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913. Women's active participation in the war effort during World War I also helped the movement gain support.

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Today in Civil Rights History: The Voting Rights Act becomes Law

August 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

In the early 1960s, television images of police attacking civil rights marchers shocked the nation and spurred the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation. On March 7, 1965, police in Alabama used tear gas and billy clubs to attack over 500 civil rights activists who marched from Selma to Montgomery to dramatize the call for voting rights for African Americans.  The images of police brutality were broadcast worldwide.

One week later, President Johnson responded by calling on Congress to pass a voting rights bill.  When he signed the VRA five months later, he remarked that it was to be "one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom."

The VRA is considered the most successful civil rights law Congress has ever passed and remains as important now as it was four decades ago. Since 1965, Congress has voted four times to renew all three of its temporary provisions, most recently in 2006, when both the House and the Senate approved the measure overwhelmingly in a bipartisan manner. Congress conducted over 20 hearings, heard from over 50 expert witnesses, and collected over 17,000 pages of testimony documenting the continued need for and constitutionality of the VRA.

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Bills to Restore Voting Rights to Ex-Felons Introduced in Congress

August 4, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, both the Senate and the House introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, legislation that would restore the right to vote in federal elections to millions of Americans with felony convictions who have completed their prison sentences.

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Nationwide Standards Would Ensure Eligible Votes Are Counted Everywhere

July 28, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Elections are run differently in every state, sometimes differently from county to county, making it hard to ensure that every eligible vote is properly counted.

In recent elections, inconsistencies in the use of emergency paper ballots and provisional ballots have prevented the votes of many Americans from being counted.

During the 2008 presidential primary, for example, some polling officials in Pennsylvania failed to issue emergency paper ballots after voting machines broke down, and instead gave out provisional ballots or turned people away. Emergency paper ballots are issued when voting machines do not work and are to be counted as a regular vote, while provisional ballots are issued when a person's voter registration is in doubt and are only counted once registration is verified. 

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Election Assistance Commission Reports Rise in Voter Registration in 2008

July 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

EAC voter registration report cover

Voter registrations have increased substantially between the 2006 congressional mid-term election and the 2008 presidential election, according to a report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).

 

The report, released last week, is the eighth in a series of regular reports the commission has submitted to Congress since passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993. The EAC is required to report every two years on the impact of the NVRA on voter registration.  This year's report revealed that the number of registered voters rose by 17.5 million from 2006 to 2008, reaching a total of 189 million.

The report also found a increase in same-day registration, in which voters are permitted to register when they arrive at the polls on election day, with 17 states adding 3.6 million new registrants on Election Day. Thirteen million inactive voters were removed from voter rolls from 2006 to 2008, for reasons including death, felony conviction, failure to vote in two consecutive federal elections, moving, or at the voter’s request.

The commission's recommendations for future improvements include creating a "coordinated data collection effort" between local and state election offices to better manage voter registration and removal of inactive voters, and the increasing the use of new technology to "ease the workload" on election officials.

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Today in Civil Rights History: The 26th Amendment Lowers Voting Age to 18

July 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Photo of a 1960s button,

"Yes 18" button from the late 1960s/early 1970s worn by many young people who protested U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Today marks the 38th anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in federal, state, and local elections.

Congress introduced the amendment in response to a 1970 Supreme Court decision, Oregon v. Mitchell, which held that Congress could not alter state or local voting arrangements through legislation. Congress had passed a law lowering the voting age earlier that year, in response to growing support for lowering the voting age among student and youth activists who opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Many American soldiers drafted to serve in Vietnam were between the ages of 18 and 21, a fact that helped to popularize the slogan, "old enough to fight, old enough to vote."

More than 50 percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the 1972 election, the first election after the amendment's ratification, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The turnout for this demographic has been steadily increasing since the 1996 election, with turnout in 2008 – 48.5 percent – nearly reaching 1972 levels.

Amendments to the Constitution are passed in both houses of Congress by a two-thirds majority vote and approved by at least three-quarters of the states.

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