Not long ago there were poll taxes and literacy tests, and sheriffs stood outside of polling places preventing Black people from voting. Volunteers registering Black communities to vote were persecuted and even killed. The remnants of these practices remain today, better disguised. Rather than wielding weapons or physically blocking people from voting, state, local, and federal governments are enacting policies and practices to curtail the growing political power of voters of color as they emerge into the new American majority.
Access to the ballot gives communities of color power and self-determination in the matters that impact their lives. Our democracy works best when it’s at its most expansive and where every voter can participate. States and federal policies should uniformly protect the right to vote and promise voter participation across the United States, regardless of where you live so that voting is free, fair, accessible and inclusive.
Advancement Project’s Power and Democracy program partners with bold, movement- and strategy-minded visionaries and doers to undo this legacy of disenfranchisement. Our partners are at the forefront of battles to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions and remove barriers to the ballot for each election. Our Power and Democracy program accomplishes this in four major ways: rights restoration, voter protection, democratizing voter protection, and the right to vote.
- Voter Protection: We are fighting unprecedented legal, legislative and administrative schemes that have a disparate effect on people of color’s access to the ballot. Advancement Project works with local groups to monitor election administration and block voter suppression efforts while championing efforts to expand access to the ballot.
- Democratizing Voter Protection: We are building a sustainable voter protection infrastructure that is owned and operated by local grassroots groups. By training local grassroots leaders to be the eyes and ears on the ground, voter protection captains can use their local relationships and their power to fix problems as they arise.
- Rights Restoration: From Louisiana to Florida and Virginia, Advancement Project is actively supporting partners in undoing the remnants of Jim Crow legacies that deprive communities of color of their voice and vote due to felony convictions. We are supporting a growing number of groups across the country and helping them build a national campaign to end this barrier to voting once and for all.
- Right to Vote: The lack of an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution is inextricably tied to the history of racism in America, as the founders compromised on this right to accommodate slave states. Hundreds of years after the founding of the United States, we are still fighting this original sin. Advancement Project works with seasoned leaders and emerging movements to foster a pro-democracy movement that uplifts the fundamental right to vote.
History of Power and Democracy:
Advancement Project has been on the front lines of fights for voting since our inception. Right after the 2000 presidential race between then Vice President Al Gore and former Texas Governor George W. Bush ends in confusion and controversy, Advancement Project files a lawsuit along with other civil rights organizations on behalf of Black voters in Florida who were not permitted to vote in NAACP v Harris. Following several years after the lawsuit, we hosted our first convening of grassroots partners focusing on the restoration of voting rights for people with felony convictions, including publishing our first national report on the issue. In 2004, we filed several lawsuits, starting with Diaz v Hood where we fought to have 14,000 Florida voter applications deemed complete, challenged Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to stop a provisional ballot plan that would potentially disenfranchise voters, intervened in DNC vs RNC on behalf of a Black Ohio voter who appeared on the Republican Party’s challenge list, and fought against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell seeking to striker down Ohio’s plans to refuse provisional ballots and require proof of identification for first-time voters who register by mail. In 2007, Advancement Project staff testified before a congressional subcommittee about voter registration and list maintenance.
Over the next several decades, we have utilized litigation grounded by work with local partners to challenge anti-voter laws in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia and Wisconsin. In addition, Advancement Project was a founding member of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition that won the ballot initiative to strike down the state’s ban on voting for those with felony convictions. More recently, we supported legislative efforts to pass the Virginia Voting Rights Act, the first voting rights anti-discrimination law in the South.