The right to vote is a basic American freedom but many Americans, especially in communities of color, face significant obstacles to exercising that fundamental right. The United States has an ugly history of denying voters of color the freedom to vote and, while significant progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to achieve an inclusive democracy that is truly of, by and for the people.
Black voters and other voters of color have encountered discrimination in voting for generations and many obstacles persist to this day. Marginalized voters frequently face difficulty registering to vote, diminished access to polling places and vote by mail, limited or inaccurate election information and other barriers to the ballot box.
For example, a recent study found that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer, on average, than those in white neighborhoods. They were also about 74 percent more likely to wait for more than half an hour.
Limited access to language assistance remains a barrier for many communities, including Latino and Asian voters, and people with disabilities are routinely denied accommodations that would aid them in exercising the freedom to vote privately and independently.
An estimated 24 million Americans have a prior felony conviction, including 5 million people who are currently disenfranchised by that conviction. However, because of complicated laws, misinformation, and poor administration, millions of Americans with felony convictions remain de facto disenfranchised, despite being eligible to vote. Similarly, most of the roughly 750,000 people detained in jails across the country are also eligible to vote, but face a net of practical barriers that make it nearly impossible to exercise their freedom to vote.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and subsequent laws clearly state that the federal government, in conjunction with election officials in states, localities, territories and tribal land, have a role to play in dismantling discrimination in voting and promoting equitable access to democracy.
Since the Executive Order was issued in March 2021, Campaign Legal Center has written letters to multiple federal agencies to provide guidance on how to achieve the Executive Order’s vision for democracy and identifying specific steps agencies can take to advance the freedom to vote for every American.