After paying an extended visit to explore the current state of society and democracy in the United States, a United Nations expert on Monday blasted a near-tyranny against minority suffrage nationwide.
The remarks of Fernand de Varennes, UN special rapporteur on minority issues, came after spending two weeks traveling the country to “assess the human rights situation of persons belonging to national or ethnic minorities, religious and linguistic “.
The Special Rapporteur met with more than 100 federal, state and territorial officials as well as civil society groups and other experts, both online and in person in the District of Columbia, Guam, California, Texas and Porto Rico. While de Varennes is currently preparing a report on his findings, he shared his initial assessment on various issues, including voting rights.
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“My final report will provide more detail and analysis in this regard, but what is already eminently clear is that there seems to be a growing sense that the United States is becoming a darker, more evil and more divided – and that the country’s patchwork of constitutional and civil rights do not sufficiently protect those most in need of protection, such as minorities and indigenous peoples, among others, ”he said in a statement. “It is very far from being, to borrow from the Constitution of the country, ‘a perfect union’.”
The expert explained that despite the constitutionally protected right to vote and to be elected, “it became clear during this mission that this is increasingly and actively undermined – and mainly affects minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics and indigenous peoples.
After sharing some of the observations of another UN expert on the phenomenon in 2017, de Varennes said that “four years later, the pace of what my colleague described as an assault on democracy has shifted. explosively accelerated “.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, legislators in 49 states this year collectively introduced more than 425 bills containing provisions restricting access to the vote, and 19 states enacted 33 laws to make voting more difficult.
The “most notable” measure is “Texan omnibus legislation that disproportionately impacts African-American, Hispanic and Asian minorities,” de Varennes said, noting that the law “makes it harder for those who face it. language barriers, primarily minorities, to get help voting, but also restricts the ability of election workers to end harassment disproportionately targeting minorities by pro-poll observers and prohibits 24-hour voting on 24 and driving. “
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Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice sued Texas over parts of the law, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying “our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to vote and to have that ballot counted. “, and vowing that the DOJ” will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society. “
De Varennes also touched on the issue of gerrymandering, which has recently caused concern from Georgia to Ohio to Texas.
“The electoral system in Texas, and sadly in a number of other states… increasingly appears to be detrimental to minorities,” he said. “Despite minorities accounting for about 95% of the state’s population growth at the 2020 census, more than half of which were Hispanic, the two congressional seats added due to this population growth have a predominantly white population according to court documents. filed in a lawsuit a few weeks before my mission. “
In addition to the largely Republican-led and implemented voter suppression efforts, the UN expert noted that “citizens of the territories of the United States (including Guam and Puerto Rico, which I visited ) cannot vote in presidential elections “.
“American Samoans cannot vote in any way because they are not considered American citizens, even if they are” American “nationals,” he explained. “They are not represented in the United States Senate and their representatives in the House of Representatives cannot vote on the floor.”
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“On the positive side, two federal voting bills are currently before Congress, the Freedom to Vote and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which seek to establish national voting standards and strengthen legal protections against discriminatory voting laws and policies, ”he added. “However, it is far from certain that these will succeed in being adopted.
Republicans in the equally divided Senate this year blocked not only those two bills, but the bolder For the People Act as well. Despite such actions by the House GOP, a few Democrats still refuse to support the abolition of filibuster to send voting rights legislation and other measures to President Joe Biden’s office.
Given the current conditions in the country, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance on Monday added the United States to its list of “backward” democracies. Think tank general secretary Kevin Casas-Zamora said that “the visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as evidenced by the growing tendency to challenge credible election results, efforts to suppress turnout [in elections], and the runaway polarization… is one of the most worrying developments. “
De Varennes issued a similar warning during a press briefing on Monday, according to Reuters. He said that “it is unfortunately becoming evident that it is almost a tyranny of the majority where the right to vote of minorities is denied in many areas”.
In addition to detailing his concern over attacks on the right to vote in the United States, De Varennes also expressed his concerns over the dramatic increase in hate speech and crime; environmental injustice; growing economic, educational and health disparities; and racial discrimination in the police and legal system.
The expert also praised the Biden administration for making progress. Reuters noted that “there had been no immediate reaction from the United States to its preliminary observations which de Varennes said he shared with US State Department officials earlier today.”