One week after the midterm elections, votes are still being counted in Florida and Georgia, with tight races hanging in the balance. Even more at stake, however, is the battle for access to the ballot, 50 years after the civil rights movement emerged as part of a broader struggle for constitutional rights. That battle for access has only expanded since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that erased the oversight provision of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that it was no longer necessary in modern America.
In a Nov. 13 Christian Science Monitor article about the Georgia vote certification process, UB School of Law Prof. Gilda Daniels put the situation in perspective. “It is a paradox,” she says. “We encourage voter participation, but we have a system that almost crumbles when people participate.
“On top of that, you have this situation … where you have Republican candidates saying that to count every vote is voter fraud, which is absurd,” Prof. Daniels continues. “The democratic process is supposed to ensure that every vote counts, and if every vote counts then we should count every vote.”
Last week, Prof. Daniels traveled to Georgia to work with the national, nonpartisan Election Protection (EP) team in Atlanta. The Advancement Project, where she works as the Director of Litigation, is one of the many organizations that partners with EP.
Prof. Daniels worked in the command center, monitoring the election process in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Issues included long lines and broken machines. Toward the end of the day, she worked to file a lawsuit to force election officials to extend the polling hours in three Fulton County precincts.
Two of the three polling places serviced students from historically black colleges and universities, Spelman, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta. Officials at those polling sites were turning students away and/or making them vote provisional ballots. Her team got the hours extended to 10 p.m. to ensure that the students could vote.
Before coming to UB School of Law to teach, Prof. Daniels was a deputy chief in the Voting Section at the U.S. Department of Justice in 2000, when the Bush-Gore recount took place. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Voting in the 21st Century, from NYU Press.