A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a part the Voting Rights Act, freeing Georgia from having to seek federal approval for election changes. A new report on minority voting rights, however, finds African American, Latino and Asian voters still face significant discrimination at the polls in Georgia and other Southern states.
The report was issued Wednesday from the National Commission on Voting Rights. Barbara R. Arnwine heads the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law. Speaking on a conference call arranged by the commission, she singled out the South.
“Texas stands out as having a remarkably high level of documented voting discrimination,” she said. “And the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina were not far behind.”
Arnwine said the stats tell the story.
“Seventy-two percent of successful discrimination claims under Sector 2 of the VRA were in jurisdictions covered by Section 5,” she said. “Two-thirds were against jurisdictions in four states: Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.”
The High Court overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which singled out specific states for higher scrutiny, including Georgia. It left Section 2 in place.
Georgia leaders argue that African American voters in particular have made great strides at the polls, with a large pool of black politicians elected across the state.
But as Georgians and other Americans head to the polls later this year for midterm elections, the report’s authors are concerned.
Leon Russell, who’s on the board of the NAACP, said African-American voters face special risks because of where they live.
“While African-Americans comprise 14 percent of the nation’s population, 55 percent of African-Americans live in the South, which is the region with the worst voting rights record,” he said.
Members of the National Commission on Voting Rights says many minority voters don’t know there’s an election in November.