New Forms of Voter Suppression Spreading Across America

PFAW Foundation issues report documenting 'The New Face of Jim Crow'

People For the American Way Foundation issued a report today that documents the recent spread of new regulatory, legislative, and administrative tactics that suppress votes.

"Jim Crow is being reincarnated as an entrenched bureaucrat or politician raising barriers to the ballot box, and it is becoming much harder for many Americans to exercise their right to vote. The barriers range from obvious to insidious to unintentional, and they are proliferating across the nation," said PFAW Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. "Racial minorities, students, the poor and senior citizens are bearing the brunt of new rules and regulations that discourage and limit voting."

The report, titled The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America, includes overviews of how the following policies and other emerging strategies are erecting new barriers to the ballot box:

  • Overly strict voter identification requirements that make it harder for the up to 10 percent of Americans who do not have government-issued photo IDs to cast a vote;
  • Burdensome voter registration rules that hobble the efforts of churches, community activists and nonprofits to register voters in traditionally disenfranchised communities, including minorities, students and immigrants;
  • Provisional ballots that are cast, but often go uncounted—for example, more than one million provisional ballots went uncounted in 2004;
  • Long lines and unequal distribution of resources at the polls, disproportionately affecting low-income neighborhoods;
  • Felon disenfranchisement policies that make it difficult for men and women who have finished their sentences to regain voting rights and sometimes disenfranchise non-felons.

These policies are often put in place with the stated rationale that they are needed to reduce voter fraud, but almost no evidence indicates that such fraud is a problem. There is also scant evidence that such policies reduce what little fraud does exist.

"Every American citizen has the right to cast a vote that counts," said Neas. "It should be the goal of public officials to make it easier, not harder to vote. And it definitely should not be easier for some groups of citizens to vote than others. That’s not fair, it’s not democracy, and it’s not the American Way."

Interviews with PFAW Foundation legal and public policy experts about these suppression strategies can be arranged via our communications department at 202-467-4999.

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