Our Impact

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The integrity of U.S. elections depends on every eligible American being able to cast a vote that is counted. Yet this year, the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, many Americans across the country were blocked from having their voices heard in the democratic process.

Once the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, even more states made it harder to vote in ways that were targeted at and fell disproportionately on people of color, young people, and low-income people. 

But one analysis in 2014 found a decline in voter participation of 2 percentage points to 3 percentage points that was attributable to changes in voter ID requirements.2

In addition to problems with strict voter ID laws, the closure of polling places and reduction of voting hours across the country this year led to fewer people being able to cast their ballots in targeted areas. Overall, in states with histories of voting discrimination—those that had formerly been covered by the Voting Rights Act—there were 868 fewer polling places operating on Election Day.

Long lines also kept people from voting. Black voters across the country are, on average, forced to wait in line for twice as long as white voters.28 In just one example, voters in Durham County, North Carolina, had to stand in line for two hours after technical difficulties required election officials to check in voters using paper poll books.29 Durham County is one of the state’s Democratic strongholds.30 Long lines are problematic, most notably for low-income people and people of color who are less likely to have flexible employment and child care options that allow them to wait in line for hours at a time. A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report estimated that “long lines deterred at least 730,000 Americans from voting in November 2012.”31

 
 

 

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