Elections

Voting Rights Institute

The Voting Rights Institute of the Democratic National Committee is a permanent organization created to monitor developments in election law, advocate to make voting more accessible, and provide guidance on voting rights and election administration issues. This work is integrally tied to our Party's platform, which commits to fully protecting and enforcing the fundamental right to vote.

The Democratic National Committee is dedicated to ensuring that the process of voting remains open and fair for all eligible Americans. We continue to work to defeat any legislative or political effort that erodes the most fundamental of American rights—the right to vote.

Under the leadership of its chair Donna Brazile, the Voting Rights Institute focuses on the protection and expansion of voting rights in a variety of ways, including:

  • Voting Rights Policy Development
  • Research and Publication
  • Voter Protection Organizing
  • Redistricting Support
  • Voting Rights Litigation Support
Resources

Before you cast your ballot, familiarize yourself with the voters' bill of rights. Download copies in English and Spanish below.

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Recent Updates
  • Making real the promises of the 14th Amendment

    On this day, 145 years ago, the 14th Amendment became the law of the land — addressing citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws. And while it was was far from perfect, the amendment was the first step in making it illegal to deny the right to vote based on race.

    The 14th amendment had big implications. It ignited the suffrage movement, ended segregation in our schools through Brown vs. Board of Education and provided the justification for Reynolds v. Sims — the landmark Supreme Court decision that established voting as a fundamental right.  As the court explained, "The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government."

    But even with these amendments and rulings, there was and still is voter discrimination and disenfranchisement. Poll taxes, literacy requirements and most recently voter ID laws — These are all tactics that have been deployed to restrict voting rights to certain populations. And some states have a stronger history than others. I know. I saw it first-hand as a little girl growing up in Louisiana.

    That's why the Voting Rights Act is so important. It made real the promises of the 14th Amendment and held states accountable for acts of voter suppression by requiring federal approval of any measures that could limit and restrict voting rights. But sadly, the Supreme Court's recent ruling dismantled a key provision of the law. But what's worse is the speed at which Republicans are moving to pass restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the decision.

    These actions aren't just bad for the constituents they represent, they directly violate the principles our country was founded on and are a slap in the face to anyone who's ever fought for voting rights.

    As we commemorate the implementation of the 14th amendment today, let's take a minute and remember its intention — to expand access to voting to EVERY American. Let's fix the Voting Rights Act and stop voter suppression wherever it exists.

  • Supreme Court Dismantles Key Provision of Voting Rights Act

    This week, Congress is holding its first hearings on reconfiguring Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. And while Democrats are committed to finding solutions that will prevent discrimination at the polls and expand access to voting, Republicans are already playing games even before the hearings begin. In fact, the hearing will be led by Representative Trent Franks — one of just 33 Republicans who voted against the law's reauthorization in 2006. Since there's been some confusion as to what the ruling means, we wanted to share a brief explanation of the decision and why it's so important for Congress to fully reinstate an act that has long been a cornerstone achievement of the civil rights movement. The Supreme Court didn't strike down the entire Voting Rights Act. What they did was dismantle the key provision.

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  • Arizona Law Requiring Voters to Provide Proof of Citizenship in Order to Vote Struck Down

    As Democrats, we’re committed to ensuring that the process for voting remains open and fair for all Americans. The Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down Proposition 200 is a big step in the right direction.

    In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court rejected an Arizona law requiring voters to provide documentation proving U.S. citizenship. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said that federal law, “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”

    The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 permits voters to register using a federal form by swearing under penalty of perjury that they are indeed citizens. However, in 2004 Arizona passed Proposition 200, which required voters to verify that they were citizens by presenting documents, including birth certificates, passports, naturalization papers or driver’s licenses issued after 1996. If a voter was unable to provide the necessary documentation, then Arizona was able to reject the federal registration application form.

    Let’s be clear: This proposition was nothing more than a tool to suppress voter turnout – particularly amongst minority populations. Since it was enacted in 2004, it blocked more than 31,000 possibly legal voters — 20% of whom were Hispanic. These voters would have been able to register prior to the law passing.

    While the Supreme Court said that states cannot add further identification requirements to the federal forms unilaterally, the Court also said that state governments could add further identification requirements so long as they get the approval of the federal government and the federal courts. Arizona had that option but failed to ask the Election Assistance Commission to make changes to the federal form.

    While Justice Scalia suggested that Arizona could ask again, we’re hopeful that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a wake up call to States across the country. Voting rights should not be suppressed.

  • Ed Rendell on election rigging in Pennsylvania: "A really big deal"

    Republicans lost in 2012 because they failed to appeal to a majority of voters—but it's clear they didn't learn their lesson. Instead of working to appeal to the changing, growing electorate, Republicans are now trying to rig the game by changing the Electoral College.

    Several states have already considered—and rejected—a similar plan: Republicans in Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida have all come out against rigging the Electoral College. But that hasn't stopped Pennsylvania's Senate majority leader, Republican Dominic Pileggi, from introducing legislation to do just that.

    The Pennsylvania Republican plan would award electoral votes proportionally. Consider this: If a plan like this had been in place in 2012, President Obama would have received 12 of Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes, and Mitt Romney would have received eight—even though he lost the popular vote by more than 300,000 votes. This is a plan that would diminish Pennsylvania's importance in future elections and its historical role as a key swing state—and more important, it would disempower hundreds of thousands of voters.

    Democrats are fighting back and calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to come out publicly against the electoral-rigging scheme. Former Gov. Ed Rendell sent an email to Democrats in his home state earlier today with his take on "a bad idea that will hurt every Pennsylvanian, Democrat and Republican alike"—and why every Democrat needs to make their opposition heard:

    Friend --

    Right now, Republicans in our state are trying to diminish Pennsylvania's importance in future presidential elections -- meaning that the issues that are important to you and me will get less attention at the national level. They know they can't win our state on the issues, so they're resorting to underhanded tactics and undermining the influence of our voters.

    Their plan would change the way Pennsylvania allocates its Electoral College votes -- splitting our votes between the winner and the loser, rather than the traditional winner-take-all approach we've used for centuries. It would end our historical role as a critical electoral state, and create a detour around Pennsylvania on the road to the White House.

    In short, it's a bad idea that will hurt every Pennsylvanian, Democrat and Republican alike. And it's up to us to do everything we can to stop it.

    Call Governor Tom Corbett's office right now at (717) 787-2500 and politely let him know you oppose this plan because it's neither fair nor the right thing for Pennsylvania.

    After your call, let us know how it went.

    Look, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why Republicans are trying to pull this trick in Pennsylvania: They haven't carried our state in a presidential election since 1988. They haven't been able to beat us, so now they're trying to rig the game.

    This isn't the first time we've seen Pennsylvania Republicans try to rig the election in their favor. In 2012, they tried to change the rules by passing burdensome voter ID laws that would have had the effect of disenfranchising thousands of Pennsylvanians. We fought those laws in the courts, and won.

    Now let's join together again and make sure this latest scheme doesn't fly.

    Call Governor Corbett at (717) 787-2500, and tell him to stop this bill. Then, click below to report your call:

    http://my.democrats.org/PA-Call-Report-Back

    Let's do this,

    Ed

    Governor Ed Rendell

    P.S. -- I can tell you from my experience as Governor: these calls make a difference. Call right now and tell him you oppose this bill.

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