Foreign Interference in American Democracy Specifically Targeted African Americans, Bolstering Domestic Efforts to Suppress The Black Vote
May 6, 2019 -- Even as civil rights groups challenge racially-motivated voter suppression in the courts and state legislatures, an even more insidious enemy of democracy targets African Americans online, exploiting their trust and spreading disinformation, according to the 2019 State of Black America®.
“For Black Americans, the right to vote is especially sacred,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “These attacks, from within our nation and from without, are a desecration to the memory of the martyrs who bled and died in defense of our rights.”
The full report can be found at www.StateOfBlackAmerica.org.
Morial said the level of manipulation and deceit that Russia aimed at dissuading Black citizens from voting is shocking but aligns with racially-motivated efforts taking place in state legislatures across the nation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a partner in this year’s report, 25 states have put in place new restrictions since 2010.
Overall, 14 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place, 12 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, seven cut back on early voting opportunities, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.
“It’s no accident that these efforts to suppress the Black vote have coincided with a surge in the diversification of the electorate,” Morial said, noting that the projected 2020 electorate is 66.7 percent white, down from 76.4 percent in 2000.
The anxiety resulting from the rising power of the Black vote was not lost on foreign saboteurs, according to Brett Shafer, Social Media Analyst and Communications Officer for the German Marshal Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a partner in the report.
“The anonymity and audience segmentation baked into online social networks has allowed Russia’s online provocateurs to nimbly insinuate themselves into Black activist communities, where they can, in their own words, ‘effectively aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population,’” Shafer wrote.
For example: Luisa Haynes, a prolific force in the #BlackLivesMatter community on Twitter, amassed more than 50,000 followers. She was retweeted and garnered media coverage in more than two dozen prominent news outlets. She was fake – created by Russian trolls as part of a far-reaching Russian strategy to manipulate and hijack the legitimate social and political grievances of African Americans.
The State of Black America, the National Urban League’s seminal annual publication since 1976, has become one of the most highly-anticipated benchmarks and sources for thought leadership around racial equality in America across economics, employment, education, health, housing, justice and civic participation.
Each edition of the State of Black America contains thoughtful commentary and insightful analysis from leading figures and thought leaders in politics, the corporate arena, the nonprofit sector, academia and popular culture.
For the first time since 2003, the report does not include the Equality Indextm, a quantitative tool for tracking racial equality in America, inspired by the Three-Fifths Compromise of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The Index will be calculated semi-annually starting in 2020.
This year’s contributors include Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass of California, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus.
“Every pillar of the National Urban League’s mission is threatened by the rising tide of voter suppression,” Morial said. “We can accept nothing less than a clear-eyed accounting of what really happened – and is continuing to happen – and an aggressive, comprehensive plan to combat it.”
- The report contains policy recommendations to repair the damage done to voting rights and safeguard the nation’s electoral systems, including:
Eliminate strict, discriminatory voter I.D. requirements.
- Allow automatic voter registration, online registration and same-day registration.
- Restore voting rights to citizens convicted of felonies as soon as their sentences are completed.
- Require paper verification of ballots in federal elections to prevent computer tampering.
- When necessary, conduct post-election audits to compare the paper records to computerized results.
- Enact the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores the full enforcement protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- Eliminate purges of the voter rolls based on failure to vote or failure to respond to mailed documents.
- Prohibit distribution of false information intended to dissuade people from voting.
- Establish incentives for states to improve cybersecurity around election systems.
- Create a National Commission, along with a Special Prosecutor to identify and eliminate foreign interference in the American democratic process.
- Move the United States toward popular election of Presidents through states’ participation in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, with a goal of eliminating the Electoral College.
Senior Director, Media Relations