ACLU Is Going On Offense In Voting Rights Fight

“If all we’re doing is filing lawsuits and fighting voter suppression, it’s just going to keep continuing."

The American Civil Liberties Union is launching an effort to make it easier to vote in all 50 states after exaggerated claims of voter fraud have led to new restrictions in many places.

The effort, called Let People Vote, will come up with plans to expand voting rights in each state, Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s national political director, told HuffPost. The efforts could include pushing for same-day voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, restoring voting rights to felons, and repealing voter ID laws.

The campaign will begin Oct. 1 in Kansas, where the chief election official, Kris Kobach (R), has exaggerated instances of voter fraud and pushed some of the most severe voting restrictions in the United States.

“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act 50 years ago, we haven’t had a nationwide, grassroots call for expansion of voting rights,” Shakir said in an interview. “Many of the bills tend to land in Congress, and it’s very difficult to pass anything through Congress.” 

The ACLU effort comes after President Donald Trump ordered a commission, led by Kobach, to investigate voter fraud, which several studies have shown is not a widespread problem. Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, he would have won the popular vote in last year’s election had it not been for millions of people who voted illegally. Since 2010, 20 states have implemented new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Some high-profile voting rights battles have landed in court. Judges have struck down voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina, and have rejected electoral maps that diminish the votes of minorities. The Supreme Court is set to hear two important cases this fall dealing with gerrymandering and voter purges.

Shakir said the new effort would would be complemented by litigation, but it was intended more to promote voting rights than react to voting restrictions.

“If all we’re doing is filing lawsuits and fighting voter suppression, it’s just going to keep continuing,” Shakir said. “At some level, we have to turn the corner and architect new laws that call for expanded access to the ballot and making our democracy more representative.” 

Shakir said the ACLU would target Democratic states as well as Republican ones. He pointed to Rhode Island, which has a voter ID law, and California, where the ACLU wants to push for Election Day registration, as two traditionally Democratic states with room for voting reforms.

Democrats have focused on voting recently as a potent political issue. Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), launched a group earlier this year called Let America Vote aimed at targeting politicians who support voting restrictions. Kander is also leading a Democratic National Comittee commission meant to push back on Trump’s claims of voter fraud.



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