Is there still voter suppression today? If so (I wouldn't be surprised if there was), how are we fighting to change that?
Michelle Lee: Voter suppression tactics are still, unfortunately a tool that many use to gain or keep power in our democracy. In 2008 and 2012 increased minority turnout made a huge difference in our elections. African American women’s turnout was the highest of any other demographic at more than 70% in 2012. This increased participation led to the election of the first black president. Since then there have been an unprecedented number of laws proposed by Republican led legislatures. One study shows that some of those measures have worked. There are however efforts to make sure that voters rights are protected. There are challenges in the court systems, voter registration drives and organizations that continue to make sure that accurate information is available to voters. Here is more information on voter protections programs.
William Wan: Really great question! And a very tough one to answer. In fact, I spent almost three weeks down in North Carolina on an investigative story trying to answer it. And I came to the conclusion that yes, in this particular instance in North Carolina, evidence certainly pointed toward an attempt at voter suppression. in some places and situations, attempts at voter suppression are still happening today.
Some may look at the recent laws by Republicans — efforts like requiring voter ID, reducing early voting, eliminating same-day registration — and buy into the argument that this is about preventing voter fraud (even though studies show voter fraud is virtually nonexistent). Others would say, it’s just politics — what party doesn’t try to pass laws that skew results in its favor?
But I waded through thousands of pages of court documents and talked to almost every major GOP lawmaker involved in passing this particular voting law. that sure looked like it was specifically targeting black voters to make it harder for them to vote. And The law and the way they crafted it sure looked like an attempt to specifically target black voters to make it harder for them to vote. And what swayed me most were the emails I found from Republican lawmakers parsing through racial voting data even as they were crafting this law a law that could make it harder for certain racial groups to vote. Emails that read like this:
“Is there any way to get a breakdown of the 2008 voter turnout, by race (white and black) and type of vote (early and Election Day)?” a staffer for the state’s Republican-controlled legislature asked in January 2012.
“Is there no category for ‘Hispanic’ voter?” a GOP lawmaker asked in March 2013 after requesting a range of data, including how many voters cast ballots outside their precinct.
And in April 2013, a top aide to the Republican House speaker asked for “a breakdown, by race, of those registered voters in your database that do not have a driver’s license number.”