Almost 1,700 polling places have been closed in counties that are no longer subject to federal oversight brought on by past voting discrimination, according to a new study that was highlighted at a congressional hearing Tuesday.
The poll closings, documented in the report Democracy Diverted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, was one of several examples witnesses gave of what they say are discriminatory practices that have occurred since the Supreme Court voided a key part of the Voting Rights Act six years ago.
What had been hailed as a major victory for those who favor restoring voting rights for convicted felons has now become a legal battle over exactly how that process should work.
On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that requires those seeking to recover their voting rights to first pay all fines and fees that they owe. In swift order, voting and civil rights groups then filed legal action seeking to block the requirement.
Last fall, voters in Florida passed by a wide margin a state constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to Floridians "after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation."
The ACLU, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, was founded to ensure the promise of the Bill of Rights and to expand its reach to people historically denied its protections. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation's guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. The ACLU is now a nationwide organization with a 50-state network of staffed affiliate offices filing cases in both state and federal courts. We appear before the Supreme Court more than any other organization except the Department of Justice.
Texas will pay $450,000 in costs and legal fees as part of a settlement reached with civil rights groups, which sued the state following its botched review of the citizenship status of those on its voter rolls.
In January, the state released a list of nearly 100,000 registered voters that the secretary of state's office considered to be potential noncitizens, of which 58,000 were said to have voted illegally in one or more elections. The review was part of an attempt to purge those registered voters from its rolls.
Election officials later backtracked on the data, admitting at least 20,000 people flagged as noncitizens were naturalized citizens. As part of the settlement, state election officials agreed to end their search of noncitizen registered voters and the planned purge of its voter rolls.
"After months of litigation, the state has finally agreed to do what we've demanded from the start — a complete withdrawal of the flawed and discriminatory voter purge list, bringing this failed experiment in voter suppression to an end," Andre Segura, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said in a statement. "The right to vote is sacrosanct, and no eligible voter should have to worry about losing that right."