Voting Rights Victories Across the Country
Posted on July 15, 2013 by Jotaka Eaddy, Sr. Director of the Voting Rights Initiative
Since the 103rd Convention, the Voting Rights Initiative has led the fight for restoring the rights of people with former felony convictions and ending voter suppression across the country.
Ahead of last year’s convention, NAACP leadership and members of the NAACP Voting Rights Initiative made-up the first full delegation to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva since WEB DuBois and Walter White went six decades ago. The delegation addressed systematic suppression of voters of color in the United States, with an emphasis on the disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions and strict voter photo ID requirements. In September, the organization sent a second delegation and the efforts have paid off.
As a result, the U.S. issued a statement saying that it intended to implement UN recommendations to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. Additionally, the visits built momentum around an amendment to the draft resolution on Democracy and Rule of Law, affirming the right to vote for all formerly incarcerated people. While the proposed amendment did not succeed, it held the United States accountable before the global human rights community.
And it didn’t end there. In 2013, after years of advocacy work by the Virginia State Conference and the National Office, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced that he will automatically grant, on an individualized basis, voting rights to people with non-violent felony offenses upon completion of all the terms of their sentence. We also saw victory in Delaware, where the Delaware senate passed House Bill 10, the Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act, to automatically restore the votes of non-violent offenders who have completed their sentences 15-6. The vote culminated a two year legislative process to amend Delaware’s Constitution and years of advocacy efforts.
Between 2012 and 2013, the NAACP and our state conferences worked tirelessly to defeat voter suppression laws in several states, working with coalitions in Maine, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire to kill restrictive bills or delay implementation of harmful laws. Michigan stopped a suite of suppressive laws, including strict photo ID, burdensome restrictions on community-based voter registration drives, and more.
And, at the direct and persistent urging of the NAACP, the US Department of Justice has played a pivotal role in protecting voting rights in 2012, in states like Texas and South Carolina. Although, the protections granted by Section 5 have temporarily been removed the Voting Rights Initiative will continue to work with states and the US Department of Justice to utilize other provisions of the Voting Rights Act and take legal action where needed.
The foundation has been set and the NAACP Voting Rights Initiative will continue to fight for equal access to the ballot box leading up the 2014 state and local elections and beyond.