Southern states have reportedly closed nearly 1,200 polling places following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
Since the 2014 midterm elections — the first since the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision — at least 1,173 polling sites in places formerly covered by a controversial provision in the law have shut down, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said in a report released Tuesday.
Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the civil rights group, spoke about the topic Tuesday during congressional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
“While there are justifiable reasons for closing polling places, the sheer scale of closures we have identified since Shelby coupled with other stark efforts to deny voting rights to people of color demand a response,” Gupta said.
The Voting Rights Act provision, which said jurisdictions with a history of discrimination need federal approval before changing voting rules affecting minorities, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It had applied to some 860 counties and county-level equivalents.
Texas, Arizona and Georgia saw the most polling sites close in recent years, the report found. Arizona, for example, saw more than 1 in 5 polling locations shut down, while in Georgia, seven counties now only have one polling location.
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska and North Carolina saw less-significant declines, the report found. One state — South Carolina — has not followed the trend, instead adding dozens of locations.
While 1,173 polling places have closed since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, a total of at least 1,688 have closed since 2012, the report finds.
There were nearly 231,000 polling places used nationwide in 2018, compared to about 120,000 in 2012, Reuters notes, citing the Election Assistance Commission, which added that its numbers are likely incomplete.
The report comes after multiple states have battled over voter registration ahead of heated elections. For example, more than 53,000 voter registration applications, a majority of them from black voters, were on hold in Georgia one month before the 2018 midterm election, with critics arguing the policies are meant to suppress minority voters.
Sutton Dunwoodie contributed.
Updated at 2:37 p.m.