Election 2020: Longer voting lines may be a sign of voter suppression

Civil rights experts point to long wait times to vote as a sign of growing voter suppression in the U.S. Here's what to expect in the 2020 election.

Video Transcript


- Voting lines and wait times have been getting longer and longer. And there is a reason for that. Voting should take no longer than 30 minutes, according to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. But in the 2018 primaries, nearly half of Latino voters and Black voters waited an average of 45% longer than white voters. That's in large part because people of color tend to live in communities where there are fewer electoral resources, a problem that can be traced to one 2013 Supreme Court decision.

In the 1965 Voting Rights Act there was a provision that said any new election laws from states with a history of discrimination needed federal oversight and approval before implementation. The provision was meant to be temporary, but was renewed several times due to its success in decreasing the voter turnout gap between whites and Black Americans. But in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned it, citing rising voter turnout rates in minority neighborhoods. In other words, the provision was deemed no longer needed.

Twenty-four hours after the Supreme Court decision, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama enforced photo ID laws that previously were barred under the provision. Proponents of the law say these policies combat voter fraud, but 11% of eligible voters, mainly people who are young and in poor rural neighborhoods, do not have government issued photo IDs.

Polling closures also increased since 2013. In Arizona and Georgia one in five voting locations closed. In Texas more than one in ten closed. And in Louisiana and Mississippi one in 20 closed. The closures mostly occurred in minority neighborhoods. After an unprecedented number of mail in ballots in the 2020 election, some lawmakers have targeted absentee voting in new restrictive bills.