OUR COMMON GROUND           with Janice Graham

LIVE Saturdays :: 10 pm ET

OCG Special "Voter Suppression: The New Poll Tax" • Friday, October 28, 2011 • 10 pm ET

This year has marked the largest legislative effort to roll back voting rights in more than a century. In response to record turnout in 2008—specifically among young voters, low-income voters, seniors and voters of color—a dozen states have passed new laws designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

New barriers aimed at neutralizing these surges and systematically disenfranchising already registered voters have included:

The introduction ofpernicious, restrictive voter identification laws in 34 states that stand to disenfranchise millions of voters.


  • Laws limiting early voting were passed in Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia, and Florida. In 2008, an average of 30% of voters in these states cast early ballots, with African Americans twice as likely to do so than whites.


  • Laws that place restrictions on nonpartisan third-party voter registration efforts, like those passed Texas and Florida, where the League of Women Voters will suspend its voter registration activities after nearly 70 years for fear they may not be able to meet the new requirements. African Americans and Latinos are more than twice as likely as white voters to register through a voter registration drive.


  • Laws requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote, such as those passed in Kansas and Alabama.


  • Policies making it more difficult for people with criminal records to regain the right to vote even after they have paid their debt to society, like those instituted in Florida, Iowa, and Virginia.

Of all of these barriers, the most pervasive threat to voting rights are new identification restrictions, which have so far passed in five states. To be clear, I do not believe that voters should be allowed to vote without demonstrating their identity. The devil here is in the details. The new laws limit identification to an unexpired, photo identification issued by the state or federal government, whereas federal law already requires identification to register but permits multiple forms including utility bills, student and employee IDs, and bank statements.

Guest:  Judith A. Browne Dianis

Co-Director, Advancement Project

Judith Browne-Dianis has an extensive background in civil rights litigation, which includes fighting to protect the rights of displaced Hurricane Katrina survivors. She was instrumental in securing a victory in Kirk v. City of New Orleans, which barred the city from bulldozing homes without first giving home owners opportunity to challenge the demolition. Through litigation, public speaking, and field work, Browne-Dianis staunchly advocates justice and equityfor displaced New Orleans residents. She also served as co-counsel in NAACP v. Katherine Harris, et al., representing the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and black Floridians in a lawsuit to remedy voting rights violations related to the November 7, 2000 election. A graduate of Columbia University School ofLaw and a recipient of the distinguished Skadden Fellowship, Browne-Dianis began her civil rights career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), practicing law in the areas of housing, education, employment, and voting rights. In its 30th Anniversary issue in 2000, Essence magazine named Browne-Dianis one of “30 Women to Watch” and, in the same issue, featured her in an article defining the Black agenda for the millennium. Browne-Dianis is admitted in New York and Washington DC.  

Tags: Advancement, Browne, Common, Dianis, Ground, Judith, Our, Project, act, black, More…poll, radio, rights, suppression, talk, tax, voter, voting

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