National Urban League highlights voting rights in 'State of Black America' report

The report highlighted voting obstacles and recommended policy changes.

Obstacles to voting access and rights at levels not seen since the civil rights-era are key sources of inequality and threaten democracy, according to the "State of Black America" report released Monday by the National Urban League.

"Attacks on voting rights and on democracy have escalated to a level not seen since the 1960s," Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said Monday at an event for the report's release.

African Americans' voting rights have been under assault over the past 10 years, he said and pointed to voting obstacles on the state and national levels and particularly highlighted the role of Russian online influence in inflaming divisions in social media.

Late last year, two reports on Russia’s widespread online influence campaign detailed how purported Russian trolls used social media to target with laser-like precision the African-American vote ahead of the 2016 presidential election, and then continued to sow social and political discord in the U.S. in the months after President Donald Trump was elected.

According to one of the reports, which were prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee by outside researchers, one goal was to persuade African-Americans to boycott the election or to follow incorrect voting procedures to suppress the vote. The same tactics, the report said, have more recently been employed targeting Mexican-American and Hispanic voters to undermine their faith in U.S. institutions.

For years, African American lawmakers on Capitol Hill and their adversaries in congressional districts have raised concerns about voter identification laws they worry disenfranchise minority voters and redistricting that marginalizes the impact of their voting power. They point to the striking down of a critical portion of the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder as a pivotal turning point in modern-day voting rights.

The report makes nearly a dozen policy recommendations, among them a push toward the elimination of the Electoral College, a proposal that has been discussed by some 2020 Democratic hopefuls. The report called for the elimination of strict voter identification requirements and allowing online, same-day and automatic voter registration. It also recommends granting statehood for the District of Columbia and eliminating purges of voter rolls.

The report lauded House Democrats' efforts at passing a wide-ranging bill in March that aims to protect voters' rights, reform campaign finance, reduce gerrymandering, and increase accountability of public officials. But H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, and President Donald Trump has already threatened to veto it.