A coordinated right-wing effort to entrench Republican power by dismantling voting rights and disenfranchising voters of color poses an existential threat to American democracy, according to the National Urban League’s annual State of Black America report published on April 12.
The NUL’s 2022 report, entitled Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy, details how Republican federal and state lawmakers are working “in concert” with political operatives and violent extremists “to disenfranchise, delude, manipulate, and intimidate American voters and establish a one-party rule.”
NUL president and CEO Marc H. Morial writes in the report’s executive summary that “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.”
Morial jumps from that era to the more recent elections of former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“The current anti-democratic wave began to rise after the 2008 election when Black voting rates matched white voting rates for the first time and helped propel Barack Obama to the White House,” he continues. “It crested in 2013 when the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision. And it broke against ‘the Big Lie,’ the relentless campaign to sow doubt about the 2020 presidential campaign and illegitimately declare Donald Trump the winner.”
Using data and analysis from research partner the Brennan Center for Justice, the report highlights four main elements of “the plot to destroy” U.S. democracy: gerrymandering, voter suppression, election sabotage, and voter intimidation.
“Communities of color powered the country’s growth over the last decade—accounting for nearly all population increase for the first time in history,” the report notes. In order to counter what many right-wing white Americans view as this demographic threat, GOP-led legislatures rig electoral district maps to effectively disenfranchise people of color.
In North Carolina, people of color accounted for 90% of all population growth over the last decade. In Texas, the figure is 95%. “Yet communities of color in these states have seen decreased representation in Congress,” the report stated.
According to NUL, 19 states passed 34 voter suppression laws between January 1 and December 7, 2021 in what the paper describes as “the most significant legislative assault on voting rights since Reconstruction.”
This year “is already shaping up to be another assault on voting rights as state legislatures in 18 states carried over at least 152 restrictive bills from the 2021 legislative sessions,” the paper notee.
Morial writes that “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.”
“For generations,” he added, “politicians have used these tactics — voter suppression, gerrymandering, intimidation, and misinformation—to exclude voters of color.”
Referring to the attempt by Trump supporters to subvert the 2020 presidential election on the baseless claim that it was “stolen,” NUL asserts that “the Stop the Steal movement isn’t a slogan or a fad. Instead, it’s a calculated push to delegitimize the voices and votes of people of color across this country.”
The paper lays out a four-point plan for sabotaging elections: First, discredit the vote. Then, introduce new outcomes through conspiracy-driven “audits.” Next, “block the ballot box” by empowering partisan officials to reject or overturn election results. Finally, establish one-party rule.
“We must pass legislation that strengthens voting rights and puts the checks in place to maintain the integrity of our electoral process,” the report asserted. “Otherwise, states may allow bad actors to take office and rewrite history with racist rhetoric, lies, and dangerous conspiracy theories.”
NUL also highlights the intimidation faced by election officials, who “are facing violent threats for carrying out their duties and upholding the legitimacy of the 2020 election. These threats reached an alarming level in 2020 and continued in 2021.”
According to the publication, one in four local election officials fear being assaulted on the job, while one in six have personally experienced abuse, such as “threats of violence against them and their family members, including elderly parents and children.”
Meanwhile, the paper points out, “in at least 17 states, legislators introduced bills that increase partisan power to control or punish officials. Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, and Texas considered bills aimed at coercing election officials through the threat of criminal and civil penalties. Florida, Georgia, and Texas introduced bills that would empower partisan poll watchers at the expense of election workers.”
“These bills have the double-pronged effect of threatening election officials and increasing the risk of partisan sabotage of election outcomes,” the report said.
Morial warned that “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.”
“It is an astonishing reversal of a two-century moral arc that has bent, if slowly and unevenly, toward universal suffrage,” he added.