Resolution #5: Addressing Voter Suppression

Secretary of the Convention

Last Update
October 25th, 2021

Status
The Convention passed this resolution on October 23rd, 2021.

Resolved, that the 172nd Convention of the Diocese of California recognizes the historic significance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting and was further strengthened by the 1975 amendment that explicitly bans any voting practice that had a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether the practice was enacted or operated for a discriminatory purpose;

Resolved, that this Convention supports and encourages reforms that would expand voter registration, increase voter eligibility, and make voting processes more accessible, including but not limited to automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, procedures and countermeasures for responding to natural and man-made disasters that threaten voting access, expanded online voting registration, reduction of restrictions on eligibility to vote, easier voting by mail, no-excuse absentee voting, long-term mailing lists for absentee voters, convenient early voting by mail and in person, weekend voting, extended voting hours, adequate number of voting locations, and prohibition of the intimidation or outright displacement of voters and local voting officials;

Resolved, that this Convention calls for the elimination of all statewide Voter ID legislation that has been adopted since the 2013 Supreme Court decision (Shelby County v. Holder), which invalidated “preclearance” criteria requiring federal approval of certain new State voting rules which could be discriminatory in effect;

Resolved, that this Convention urges the Bishop, working with our General Convention Deputation at the 80th General Convention, and acting through resolution or other appropriate means, to support the passage of resolutions protecting voter rights; and

Resolved, that this Convention directs its Secretary to forward this resolution to the Governor of the State of California and our Diocesan state elected officials with the recommendation that the State of California enact legislation that will protect and expand voters’ rights as outlined in this resolution.

Contact
Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta, 
drtsuruta@gmail.com

Submitted by
The Rev. Mauricio Wilson, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland and Western Regional Director, Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE); The Rev. Deacon Jennifer Nelson, St. Bartholomew's, Livermore and St. Clare's, Pleasanton and Co-Chair, Northern California/Vivian Traylor Chapter of the UBE; The Rev. Eric Metoyer, Rector, St. Francis, San Francisco and UBE member; and Ms. Brenda Paulin, St. Augustine, Oakland and UBE member.

Endorsed by
Members of the Northern California/Vivian Traylor Chapter of the UBE (Ms. Jeanette Dinwiddie-Moore, co-chair; Ms. Michelle Mayfield-Baske, Secretary; Ms. Jeri Robinson, Treasurer; The Ven. Archdeacon Rev. Carolyn Bolton; Ms. Saundra Anderson; Ms. Mary Borders; The Rev. Deacon Alberta Buller; The Rev. James Dahlin; Diocese of California; Ms. Carlette Dorsey; Mr. Roy Faulk; Ms. Victoria Fussell; Ms. Carolyn Gaines; The Rev. Br. Richard Edward Helmer; Linda Joseph; Dr. Cassandra Joubert; The Rev. Chip Larrimore; Ms. Deborah Moses; Dr. Laura Natta; Mr. Jock Putney; Mr. Stephen Tiffenson; Dr. Dorothy Tsuruta; Ms. Barbara Vassell and Ms. Dianne Williams); the Afro Anglican Commission; the Alameda Deanery; the Peninsula Deanery; the Southern Alameda Deanery; the Contra Costa Deanery; the San Francisco Deanery

Explanation [1]
In the United States, elections are administered locally, and forms of voter suppression vary among jurisdictions. At the founding of the country, the right to vote in most states was limited to property-owning white males. Over time, the right to vote was formally granted to racial minorities, women, and youth. During the later 19th and early 20th centuries, Southern states passed Jim Crow laws to suppress poor and racial minority voters – such laws included poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. Most of these voter suppression tactics were made illegal after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2013, discriminatory voter ID laws arose following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which some argue amounts to voter suppression among African Americans.

In Texas, a voter ID law requiring a driver's license, passport, military identification, or gun permit, was repeatedly found to be intentionally discriminatory. The state's election laws could be put back under the control of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Under a previous Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, however, the DOJ expressed support for Texas's ID law. Sessions was accused by Coretta Scott King in 1986 of trying to suppress the black vote. A similar ID law in North Dakota, which would have disenfranchised large numbers of Native Americans, was also overturned.

In Wisconsin, a federal judge found that the state's restrictive voter ID law led to “real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities”; and, given that there was no evidence of widespread voter impersonation in Wisconsin, found that the law was “a cure worse than the disease.” In addition to imposing strict voter ID requirements, the law cut back on early voting, required people to live in a ward for at least 28 days before voting, and prohibited emailing absentee ballots to voters.

Other controversial measures include shutting down Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in minority neighborhoods, making it more difficult for residents to obtain voter IDs; shutting down polling places in minority neighborhoods; systematically depriving precincts in minority neighborhoods of the resources they need to operate efficiently, such as poll workers and voting machines; and purging voters from the rolls shortly before an election.

Elsewhere, proposals have been made or adopted that appear designed to intimidate voters or voting officials, including, e.g., greatly increasing the number and power of “observers” at voting stations, and prohibiting the giving of food or water to those waiting in line to vote. Other proposals have even sought to give State voting officials or the legislature the power to overrule local officials and even voters themselves.

Often, voter fraud is cited as a justification for such laws even when the incidence of voter fraud is low. In Iowa, lawmakers passed a strict voter ID law with the potential to disenfranchise 260,000 voters. Out of 1.6 million votes cast in Iowa in 2016, there were only 10 allegations of voter fraud; none were cases of impersonation that a voter ID law could have prevented. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, the architect of the bill, admitted, “We've not experienced widespread voter fraud in Iowa.”

 

In May 2017, President Donald Trump established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, purportedly for the purpose of preventing voter fraud. Critics have suggested its true purpose was voter suppression. The commission was led by Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a staunch advocate of strict voter ID laws and a proponent of the Crosscheck system. Crosscheck is a national database designed to check for voters who are registered in more than one state by comparing names and dates of birth. Researchers at Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and Microsoft found that for every legitimate instance of double registration it finds, Crosscheck's algorithm returns approximately 200 false positives. Kobach has been repeatedly sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for trying to restrict voting rights in Kansas.

[1] Union of Black Episcopalians Resolution #7, A Resolution to Address the Issue of Voter Suppression as prepared by Joe McDaniel, Jr.