This year marks the first presidential election in 50 years without a functioning Voting Rights Act — and it’s not going well.
Republican lawmakers have been devising efforts to make it harder for Americans to vote for many years, since the GOP took over statehouses across the country in 2010. Those efforts culminated in 2013 with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down key portions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a formerly untouchable cornerstone of civil rights. For the past three years, states and jurisdictions have no longer had to clear potentially discriminatory laws with the Department of Justice — at least not as long as a Congress controlled by radical, right-wing factions continues to sit on the rewrite of the VRA.
Meanwhile, emboldened by that Supreme Court victory, other Republican-controlled states have accelerated their efforts to disenfranchise low-income, minority voters, whether it’s through photo identification requirements or limiting the number of polling locations. In 2016, 17 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.
While Republican lawmakers like to claim that the laws are not suppressing votes, stories from across the country speak for themselves. In Arizona, voters waited up to five hours in line in order to cast ballots. In South Carolina, people were given misleading information about the state’s voter ID law. And in Wisconsin, students were disenfranchised because polling places refused to accept their out-of-state IDs.
ThinkProgress has traveled across the country to speak with people about how voter suppression measures — from voter ID to felon disenfranchisement laws — and poorly organized elections are affecting their participation in the electoral process.