American Humanist Association
Resolution on Voting Rights
Adopted by the Board of Directors
November 19, 2016 | Las Vegas, NV
Humanists strive to embody a system of universal ethics that applies fully and equally to all peoples—and this includes our outlook on prejudices that impede political participation. Voter suppression, which can arise in many forms, poses a great threat to our nation’s democratic order through the unjust disenfranchisement of many voters. Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision in Shelby County v. Holder that invalidated the key enforcement mechanism of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA is a landmark law that took key steps to realize promises of the 14th and 15th amendments, and required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain preclearance from the federal government prior to changing voting laws or policies.
Significantly, in 2008, people of color represented a quarter of the nation’s eligible voters for the first time in our nation’s history. In 2011 and 2012 nineteen states passed twenty-five laws that made it harder to both register to vote and to vote on Election Day. Following the decision in Shelby County previously covered jurisdictions instituted a wide range of suppression tactics, from strict voter identification laws to poll closures and shortened hours for voting and registration. Ruling on a law passed by North Carolina, a three judge panel described it as surgically targeted to minority voters.
Curtailment of early voting, elimination of same-day registration, reduction in the number of polling places, vote dilution tactics, and needlessly cumbersome voter ID laws are common means of restricting the expression of political voice of those of low income and people of color. Without federal protection, these changes—along with felony disenfranchisement and prison gerrymandering—perpetuate the marginalization of historically disenfranchised groups so that those in power can maintain social and political advantages without democratic accountability. The American Humanist Association therefore concludes that humanist values provide an imperative to advocate for inclusive voting rules.
WHEREAS humanists recognize the legacy of voter suppression and its inextricable ties to racism and classism in the United States;
WHEREAS humanists seek transparency and equality across states and jurisdictions;
WHEREAS humanists recognize that past criminal acts should not silence future participation in a democracy;
WHEREAS humanists acknowledge that felony disenfranchisement disproportionately affects minority groups, contributing to the marginalized state of minority groups;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION, in support of broad voter enfranchisement,
Affirms the need for a modern, flexible, and forward-looking statute such as the Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect voting rights by modernizing the preclearance formula to cover states with a pattern of discrimination that puts voters at risk, ensuring that last-minute voting changes will not adversely affect voters, protecting voters from voting changes that likely discriminate against people of color and language minorities, enhancing the ability to apply preclearance review when needed, expanding the effective federal observer program, and improving voting rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives;
Affirms that inclusive voting rights are fundamental to democracy and that every citizen disenfranchised is a step away from democracy.
Affirms that every adult citizen has the right to participate in the governance of the society in which they reside through the choice of representatives regardless of race, gender, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or political affiliation;
Affirms that past criminal acts should have no bearing on voting eligibility in the future and urges the reinstatement of voting rights to those with criminal records, thus allowing an additional 5.8 million citizens to access and participate in our democracy;
Affirms that we can reduce recidivism by restoring the rights of individuals to participate in their communities and the decision-making that impacts their lives;
Affirms that incarcerated people should be counted as residents at the address of legal residence prior to incarceration, and not the places they happen to be incarcerated on Census Day;
Affirms that political districts should be drawn for the benefit of the people they represent, rather than for partisan gain based on race or political affiliation. Gerrymandering may be more effectively allayed through a mathematical redistricting algorithm based on geometrically-consistent population density centers;
Affirms its support for the elimination of unnecessarily burdensome voter photo ID laws, which are barriers to the ballot box disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable citizens without evidenced reduction in voter fraud;
Affirms statistics reveal widespread beliefs about voter fraud is unfounded. Between 2000 and 2010 there were only 13 cases of credible in-person voter impersonation out of 649 million votes cast in general elections;
Affirms its support for free and easy access to photo IDs in states and districts that maintain voter ID laws;
Affirms its support for efforts to reduce barriers to voting such as opt-out voter registration rules like those recently adopted by the state of Oregon;
Affirms its support for federal regulation and oversight of election administration to achieve consistency across states and districts.
As humanists, it is imperative that we identify and denounce modes of inequality that contradict the fundamental principle of all individuals possessing equal value. Both understated and blatant discrepancies in our voting system will not be tolerated and have no place in a truly egalitarian society.