There is a virtual tsunami of Republican-backed attempts to erode voting rights following former President Trump’s election loss: Twenty-four new laws have been passed in 14 states this year that will allow state legislatures to “politicize, criminalize, and interfere in election administration.” Overall, 216 bills have been introduced in 41 states to achieve these ends. Voter suppression can be implemented through strict voter ID laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement, adding barriers to accessing the polls and legislating ways to delegitimize election results.
Because the votes these bills seek to suppress are primarily those of Black and brown people, newly- elected Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock has named these bills “Jim Crow in new clothes.” This excellent article from CNN provides a “timeline of new and old efforts to limit the political power of Black Americans and other voters of color.”
Efforts are being made to address these wholesale attacks on voting at the federal level. Merrick Garland stated that the DOJ will take significant steps to protect the freedom to vote, including doubling the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights enforcement staff, using federal voting statutes to protect the vote, scrutinizing new anti-voter laws for violations and publish new guidance on early voting, mail voting and audits. However, HR-1, For the People Act of 2021, which expands voter registration and access and requires states to create independent redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering, passed the House but was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
It is important to revisit this history especially as we are currently witnessing a wave of new assaults on voting rights alongside a separate but related campaign aimed at removing critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in schools. More than 20 states are taking steps to ban the teaching of CRT. Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, explains to MSBNC the connections between renewed voter suppression and attempts to ban critical race theory. A white-washed narrative of history allows those in power to attempt to maintain power and enact dangerous policies that erode civil rights.