|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
On March 22, Arizonians in Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state, experienced abnormally longer lines at polling stations. Several allegations have also been made that there were disproportionate waiting times for minority voters. Department of Justice officials have opened an investigation into whether civil rights were violated.
In the letter, the Members request, “…that the Civil Rights Division review the impact of recently implemented voting restrictions on primary elections to determine whether the Department should implement additional monitoring programs in preparation for the November general election.”
The number of polling stations in Maricopa County, which is more than 40 percent minority, has been reduced by seventy percent, from 200 to 60 locations since the last presidential election in 2012.
“During the North Carolina primary election on March 15, voters waited for up to four hours at inner-city polling places to cast their votes. The number of provisional ballots cast last month in the North Carolina presidential primary was almost double the number of provisional ballots cast in 2012,” said the lawmakers. “These are warning signs that we cannot, and should not, ignore. These incidents raise serious constitutional concerns under both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment.”
After the Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder removed the preclearance requirement of Section V of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, there has been an increase in the number of restrictive voting laws. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that, since 2010, twenty-one states have passed restrictive voting laws. The enforcement of many of these laws disproportionately impacts low-income, minority, student, and elderly voters.
The letter, spearheaded by House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), is signed by Ranking Member on the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee Steve Cohen (D-TN); Ranking Member on the Crime Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Linda Sánchez(D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; and Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.