Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Comprehensive Study Highlights Current Barriers to Voting in California

A new report released today by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) "Voting Rights Barriers and Discrimination in Twenty-First Century California: 2000-2013", based on an in-depth study of voting discrimination in California over the past 13 years, chronicles a trend in voting rights violations and disenfranchisement throughout the state.

Produced in response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that gutted the federal voting rights act, the report finds that California voters face barriers and discrimination in voting across five categories: (1) vote dilution, (2) the systemic de jure and de facto disenfranchisement of currently and formerly-incarcerated Californians, (3) voter suppression, (4) language access barriers and (5) disability access barriers.

Accompanying the Lawyers’ Committee report is an interactive, searchable database that catalogs state and federal voting rights cases in California. Also included are NGO report findings and examples of individual instances of voting problems on Election Day. The data gathered spans the years 2000 to 2013. The report and database are intended to be useful resources for voters, elections officials, administrators and legislators as well as community civic engagement and civil rights organizations.

The case for additional oversight is supported by over twenty cases that were filed under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) since the start of the millennium. The report also found that that over 140 local jurisdictions, including city councils, school districts, community college districts, county boards and water districts, have sought to convert from at-large elections to district-based elections in order to comply with the CVRA and address ongoing concerns of vote dilution in California.

Additional challenges addressed in the report include the de facto disenfranchisement among more than 350,000 currently and formerly incarcerated Californians who are otherwise eligible to vote, and over nine California cities and counties the U.S. Department of Justice identified as acting in violation of their language access obligations under the federal Voting Rights Act.

LCCR recommends several actions that state and federal governments should take to address the concerns identified in the report. Samples of them are:

• Adopt and enforce clear statewide standards for voter registration, pollworker training, auditing and evaluation.

• Ensure and protect the right to vote among 350,000 current and formerly incarcerated Californians who are otherwise eligible to vote under current law.

• Strengthen and expand state and federal language and disability access voting rights protections. • Strengthen the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) to address ongoing vote dilution of communities of color in single-member district-based election systems, and provide clearer remedies for violations.

• Adopt a new coverage formula in the proposed Federal Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA) that brings California within federal protection and oversight before common discriminatory election practices cause any further harm to California voters.


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