4 Days Remaining
During this 21 day countdown, we have covered many important conversations surrounding voter access and the complicated history behind the right to vote. Today, we build off of the discussion on polling places and the impacts surrounding the case of Shelby County v. Holder. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found that as of 2018, there were 1,688 polling place closures in the counties that formerly needed clearance under Section 5 of The Voting Rights Act. This is in just a five-year period following the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2013. Many have called poll closures a new form of Jim Crow, the effects of which have plagued this nation since the end of the Civil War.
These closures are typically done with very little, if any, notice to the public. Although they have occurred across communities of varying racial and demographic characteristics, the results have been predictable, and very similar. The closure of polling places in these communities leads to longer wait times (which have already been found to be significantly longer for Black and Latinx voters compared to White) and barriers with transportation. It is no mistake how the decisions have been made on what polling locations needed to be “consolidated.” These burdens make it more difficult, if not impossible, to vote.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan independent study group started in 1957, found that states claimed polling-place closures were “intended to save money, centralize voting operations, and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The impact, however, has been an overwhelming reduction in voter turnout, particularly among minority voters who have historically been disenfranchised.
By closing polling locations in these communities, we are structurally limiting citizens from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. As Forbes said in a 2020 article on the subject, it is essentially Jim Crow 2.0. It is incredibly important that we understand the discriminatory impact of these closures, and how they specifically impact each community.