The 2015 Academy Awards of Voter Suppression
This Sunday, Hollywood rolls out the red carpet to celebrate its own in the Academy Awards. One of the Best Picture nominees, “Selma,” depicts a not-so-distant time in our history when African Americans had to fight against overwhelming odds to exercise their right to vote. But the unfortunate reality is that today’s voting rights battles are far too similar to those of the past. In that light, we at CAP Action present the “Academy Awards of Voter Suppression,” to highlight those who continue to stand in the way of people’s right to vote. You can see our full list of awardees here, but below are some of the big, er, winners. So without further ado, the Oscars go to:
Best Director: Charles and David Koch, the financial and directorial duo behind an empire of conservative advocacy groups, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is peerless in its ability to draft voter suppression legislation: in 2011 and 2012, lawmakers in 37 states proposed 62 bills related to voter suppression—fully half were sponsored by ALEC members or ALEC conference attendees.
Best Picture: North Carolina, the setting to the most wide-reaching voter suppression effort following the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which made the government’s work to hold many states accountable for their history of suppressing the vote more difficult. After that decision, Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill into law that made it much more difficult for people to register to vote and ensure that their votes count, as well as cut the early voting window by one-third and instituted a photo ID requirement. Nonpartisan election advocate Rick Hasen decried it as “the most sweeping anti-voter law in decades.”
Best Actor: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, for his sustained, multi-faceted performance to make it harder for people to vote by implementing a strict voter ID law and cutting early voting days. Year after year, Walker defended his voter suppression laws in front of court after court after court. If Walker’s voter ID law is upheld, about 300,000 Wisconsin voters, disproportionately Hispanic and African-American, will be negatively impacted.
Best Actress: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, for her advocacy of voter ID laws. In 2011, Haley signed a voter ID bill into law, but the U.S. Justice Department rejected the law as discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. But after the Shelby decision, which removed that power from the federal government, Haley’s administration moved swiftly to implement the law. About 178,000 South Carolinians did not have the ID required by the law, particularly African American voters.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for his outlandish efforts to create a two-tiered voting system in Kansas. In his efforts to suppress the vote, Kobach created a two-tiered voting system in Kansas: one set of rules to vote in federal elections, with no requirement to prove citizenship, and a separate set of rules to cast a ballot in state and local contests— if a voter can prove United States citizenship. Despite a federal court ruling finding this two-tier system unconstitutional, Kobach has vowed to press on with an appeal.
BOTTOM LINE: American history includes a long, ignominious record of certain powerful people trying to block access to the ballot box. While the names and dates have changed, and progress has certainly been made, we need to continue the fight to ensure that everyone can vote, and highlight the people who are standing in the way.
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