WASHINGTON – Thirteen U.S. states closed a staggering 1,688 polling locations in just six years, according to a new report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund. The report, “Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote,” notes that 1,173 of the closures occurred between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections – underscoring the scale of this assault on U.S. democracy. Texas, Georgia, and Arizona top the list of highest closure rates between 2012 to 2018.
The report’s authors detail the detrimental impacts that polling place closures have on historically disenfranchised communities, especially communities of color, voters with disabilities, and other populations that already face notable levels of discrimination. They also urge journalists, advocates, and voters to use the data to scrutinize the impact of poll closures in their respective communities, to understand their impact on voters of color, and to create a more just electoral system for all.
“Polling places must be accessible to all. Moving or closing a polling place – particularly without considering the impact on communities of color – disrupts our democracy. Voters deserve better,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “While there may be valid reasons for polling place closures, we must recognize that closures are taking place at alarming speed amid broader efforts to prevent people of color from voting. And meanwhile, states are under no obligation to evaluate the discriminatory impacts of such closures. This is exactly why we need to restore the Voting Rights Act and all of its protections. Failure to do so will only lead to more of the same: a democracy for some, but not for all.”
An update of original research published in 2016, the report analyzes 757 of 861 counties and countylevel equivalents previously covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in its Shelby County v. Holder decision. The report found:
• 1,173 of the 1,688 closures occurred between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections
•. Of the 757 counties analyzed, 298 (39 percent) reduced the number of polling places between 2012 and 2018
• States with the largest numbers of polling place closures were Texas (750), Arizona (-320), and Georgia (-214)
The full report can be found at democracydiverted.org.