The United States is becoming a two-tiered country with separate and unequal voting laws

The United States is becoming a two-tiered country with separate and unequal voting laws

Ari Berman reports:

Phoebe Einzig-Roth, an 18-year-old freshman at Atlanta’s Emory University, moved to Georgia in August and was excited to vote in her first election. But when she went to her polling location near campus on Election Day, election officials told her she’d been flagged as a noncitizen. Even though she’d brought three forms of identification—her Massac­husetts driver’s license, passport, and student ID—she was forced to cast a provisional ballot.

Three days later, she went to confirm her citizenship at the local election office, where she was assured her vote would be counted. But she kept checking Georgia’s online “My Voter Page” and there was no record it had been. She posted a picture of herself on Facebook wearing an “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker and wrote, “The thing that infuriates me the most about voter suppression is not that it happened to me, but that it happened, and is continuing to happen to thousands of people all over the country, and most of the time, nothing is done to stop people from being turned away at the voting polls.” She told me a few days later, “I don’t believe my vote will count.”

Einzig-Roth was right that she was far from alone. Voters in Georgia and other states faced onerous barriers to performing their civic duty this year. As these voters were running into obstacles, residents of other states were passing ballot measures to strike down voting restrictions and make voting easier for many more people. These parallel worlds mean voting in America today looks a lot like it did more than half a century ago. We’re becoming two Americas again: one where casting a ballot is a breeze, and another where it’s a pitched battle.

Before 1965, voting laws varied widely by state. It was extremely difficult for African Americans to vote in Alabama or Mississippi but far easier for them to do so in Northern states. The Voting Rights Act ended this dichotomy by striking down the literacy tests and suppressive laws that disenfranchised African Americans in the segregated South. With the passage of the VRA, the country committed itself to ensuring voting rights for all Americans, regardless of race, party, or region.

But the Supreme Court shattered that consensus when it gutted the law in 2013, ruling that states with a long history of voting discrimination no longer needed to get federal approval to make changes to their voting rules. Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the notion that voting discrimination was still “pervasive” or “rampant,” asserting that “our country has changed.” The midterms were a perfect illustration of just how wrong he was. [Continue reading…]

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