Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, testified in a virtual hearing on Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot for the Committee on U.S. House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections on April 1.
The hearing was held as 361 restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 47 states and as the U.S. Senate considers an expansive voting rights bill, the For the People Act, already passed in the House. Diaz was one of four witnesses that included Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Marcia Johnson-Blanco of the Lawyers’ Committee, civil rights advocate Deb Adegbile, and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
In the face of an avalanche of restrictive voting bills, Diaz argued that they come in response to the growth of a youthful and diverse American electorate.
“Oftentimes, when we talk about voter suppression, we focus on a set of jurisdictions that have long been bad actors in our law textbooks – places like Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida,” Diaz said. “But this frame too often leaves out an important fact: vote dilution, voter suppression, and the attack on Americans’ fundamental right to free and fair access to the ballot happens everywhere.”
Diaz received a medley of questions from Representatives Aguilar (CA-31), Leger Fernandez (NM-03), and Davis (IL-13) about the consequences of voter suppression tactics for Latino voters. Diaz argued that a vibrant democracy required that everyone have fair and equal access to practice their constitutional rights – and that it’s not entirely a coincidence that the growth of these restrictive bills comes from the very states where Latinos and voters of color were consequential to the 2020 election.
“Voter suppression is a feedback loop,” she said, and one that elected officials need to act to end.
Diaz, with support from Voting Rights Project staff and fellows, submitted written testimony in advance of the hearing that is now part of the Congressional Record.