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Ebony Gabriel




The Accessibility of Voting

Ebony Gabriel, Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Touro University

Currently, systemic barriers and discrimination impact equal access to voting. Although voting is a civil right and protected by the Constitution, Black people and communities of color in particular continue to face numerous obstacles to voting. Every citizen should have equal access to voting because it is the foundation to American democracy.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 protected marginalized groups by ending state/local voter suppression tactics designed to keep Black and Brown voters from casting ballots, up until 10 years ago, when the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder ruled a “preclearance” requirement, which required jurisdictions with records of racially discriminatory voting practices seek federal approval before altering their voting laws and practices. Additionally, 8 years after Shelby the Supreme Court dismantled another section of VRA– Section 2, a nationwide ban on voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or language —  making court challenges to discriminatory tactics even harder.

Years after the Shelby Supreme Court case, states have enforced a stream of voter stifling laws that unfairly impact voters of color. Some of the prejudicial anti-voter efforts include unnecessary photo ID laws, restraints on voter registration, voter purges, cuts to early voting and vote by mail, documentary proof of citizenship requirements, and polling place closures. Voters across the country continue to face inconsistent restrictions on absentee voting, bans on providing water to voters as they wait in hours-long lines, dropbox limitations, gerrymandering, and other constraining policies that unequally oppress marginalized communities.

Marginalized communities face various hindrances to significant participation in the political process, including the redistricting process. The VRA forbids the drawing of district lines that weaken the voting strength of communities of color that prevents them from participating in the political process equally. However, the redistricting process in many states continues to affect district lines that crack and pack Black people and communities of color in ways that minimize their voting strength. As a conclusion, they are not adequately represented in our democracy, sustaining the systemic inequality many voters of colors already face. Redistricting plans should fairly emulate the political strength of communities of color. As the Census data shows, nearly all of the country’s growth over the past decade is ascribable to the growth in our nation’s communities of color. Fair maps must adequately reflect that reality, and the right to vote should be equally accessible to everyone.

John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would rehabilitate and reinforce the VRA to its full power after the Supreme Court disemboweled its core protections a decade ago. If the Supreme Court did not gut the VRA, voters in states and localities with the worst history of voting discrimination would still be protected. These jurisdictions would have to preclear changes to their voting laws with the federal government, preventing discriminatory changes before they could be implemented and contaminate an election. This Act will root out racially-driven voting obstacles and is crucial to protecting our fundamental right to vote without encountering racially discriminatory barriers.


ACLU, 2023. Why Access to Voting is Key to Systemic Equality. ACLU: News & Commentary.


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