An “insidious and coordinated” effort between lawmakers and extremist groups is under way to undermine American democracy, according to a new report.
On Tuesday, the nonpartisan civil rights organization National Urban League released the annual report in its analysis series The State of Black America. The report, called Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy, outlines the “conspiracy and the urgent case for a national mobilization to protect and defend our most sacred constitutional right”.
It focuses on four main tactics that it says are used in this effort: gerrymandering, voter suppression, misinformation and intimidation.
In 2021 alone, 20 states have leveraged census data to redraw congressional maps, it noted. The new maps proposed by Republican state lawmakers “are no more than modern-day gerrymandering that strips voting power away from communities with Black and brown voters”, the report said.
It also listed 34 laws passed in 19 states between January 1 and December 7 2021 that make it more difficult for people to vote.
In addition to shortening the window to apply and deliver mail ballots, those laws limit absentee voting lists, restrict assistance in returning a voter’s mail ballot, reduce the availability of mail ballot drop boxes, and increase barriers for voters with disabilities, among other restrictions.
“The burden of these laws – strict photo ID requirements, the elimination or restriction of Sunday voting, voting by mail and early voting, and the closing of polling locations – overwhelmingly falls on Black voters,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of NUL, said in the report.
“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the United States has seen a steady rise in disenfranchisement practices giving one party an edge over the other. But never before has the nation seen such an insidious and coordinated campaign to obliterate the very principle of ‘one person, one vote’ from the political process.”
According to the report, state legislatures in 18 states carried over at least 152 restrictive bills from the 2021 legislative season. Additionally, in states that allow lawmakers to “pre-file” bills ahead of the next legislative season, at least 96 bills in 12 states would make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots.
The report also laid out steps that have been taken to sabotage elections, including discrediting the vote and outright aiming to establish one-party rule, as demonstrated by the Stop the Steal movement.
It also notes an uptick in intimidation of election officials since 2020, with one in six local election officials saying they have personally experienced threats, and a quarter concerned about being assaulted because of their role.
Additionally, the report found that election workers are resigning and retiring at alarming rates, with one in five saying that they are “very” or “somewhat” unlikely to continue serving through 2024.
It cites a poll conducted by the strategic research and consulting firm Benenson Strategy Group in which an overwhelming majority of Black Americans said they believe strongly in the power of their vote to make a difference when it comes to social and racial justice, police violence and economic opportunity.
However, nearly as many agree that elected officials are not doing enough to protect their voting rights and are in fact “doing more to limit voting rights than to protect them”.