RELEASE: Secretaries of State Play a Crucial Role in Protecting African Americans’ Voting Rights, Says New Report by CAP Action Fund and the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State

Washington, D.C. — Today, on the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (DASS) examines the important role secretaries of state play in protecting voting rights for African Americans.

As the top election administrators in most states, secretaries of state are facing unprecedented challenges this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the refusal of congressional Republican leaders to fully fund state elections during the pandemic. Many secretaries of state have overseen chaotic primary elections in the past several months that disenfranchised many voters, including disproportionate numbers of African Americans.

This new report delves into the election duties that secretaries of state manage and provides examples of secretaries of state who are taking steps toward safe, inclusive elections. The report also highlights secretaries of state who are engaging in voter suppression, including Brad Raffensperger (R) in Georgia—where long lines and malfunctioning equipment hindered people from voting in the state’s primary—as well as Laurel Lee (R) in Florida, who is blocking formerly incarcerated people from exercising their right to vote. The report also recommends steps that every state should be taking toward providing safe voting options for all eligible voters, including vote by mail, in-person voting on Election Day, and early in-person voting.

“Modern day voter suppression policies may no longer include poll taxes and literacy tests, but the disproportionate adverse impact of voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls, and felony disenfranchisement on communities of color is no coincidence,” said DASS President and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D). “Secretaries of state have the power to fight voter suppression and the constitutional responsibility to make elections accessible and inclusive. This report shines a light on egregious voter suppression happening in our country and the steps we have to take to protect our elections and access to the ballot box. I want to thank the CAP Action Fund for their partnership to ensure we protect every eligible voter’s right to vote.”

“As guardians of democracy, secretaries of state should be moving heaven and earth to conduct elections in which all citizens can participate equally,” said Michael Sozan, a CAP Action senior fellow and co-author of the report. “When African American voters disproportionately experience closed polling locations, long lines, or malfunctioning equipment, their voices are diminished—and our democracy suffers. Congress must immediately and fully fund state elections, especially at a time when African Americans are mobilizing to create a transformative new era of equal rights.”

Read the full report here: “Secretaries of State Are Crucial for Protecting African American Voters” by Michael Sozan and Christopher Guerrero

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at or David Beltran of DASS at .