It’s been 55 years since the Voting Rights Act, and we still don’t have equal voting rights

black and white photo of marchers holding signs that say “We demand voting rights now!”
Protesters marching for equal voting rights past a white person holding up a confederate flag.
John Lewis (left) and Martin Luther King Jr. (right) singing “We Shall Overcome” during a 1966 march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi
A state trooper physically assaulting John Lewis during the voting rights march in Selma on March 7, 1965
John Lewis speaking out against federal inaction on gun control at a vigil for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting on July 12, 2016

Over half a century later, we still don’t have equal voting rights and protections.

In 2013, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder that allowed local governments in states with historical discriminatory voting practices to change their voting policies without federal approval. The impact of Shelby County v. Holder (2013) has been devastating for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities. Since the ruling, research has shown significant increases in discriminatory voting laws and practices, especially in states with historical voter discrimination. There are six key voter suppression strategies that impact every stage of the voting process:

  1. Gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating geographical district boundaries of constituencies to favor a specific party over another — which intentionally clusters voters of color into fewer districts in order to dilute their voting power. This occurs especially in closely-divided states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin.

With the 2020 election happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters will experience further complications and restrictions.

For example, Texas will not accept medical vulnerability to the coronavirus as sufficient grounds for absentee voting. Many have already experienced increased voter suppression — For the primaries, Wisconsin only had five polling places open instead of the usual 180.

Voter suppression also disproportionately impacts Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

A youth member of Khmer Girls in Action practicing voter outreach

So what can we do to fight voter suppression? Here are five actions you can take today and over the next few months to protect the right to vote:

  1. Vote, if you can. Voting is a privilege that many people do not have. It’s also important to vote down the ballot because local officials and ballot measures have the power to influence voting suppression.
  2. Stay informed about voter suppression, especially new tactics such as the spread of misinformation on social media. Report misinformation when you see it and spread accurate voting information.
  3. Volunteer with organizations like AAPI FORCE to conduct outreach to AAPIs and other groups disproportionately affected by voter suppression.
  4. Volunteer at polling centers on election day if you are at low-risk for COVID-19. The average poll worker is over 60 years old.
  5. Donate to organizations conducting voter outreach and advocacy work. You can search for organizations by state, constituency, and issue area on Movement Voter Project.It’s been 55 years since the Voting Rights Act, and we still don’t have equal voting rights



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AAPIs For Civic Empowerment-Education Fund (AAPI FORCE-EF) is an alliance of community organizations building the political power of working class AAPIs in CA.