About The Voter’s Portal

What is The Voter’s Portal
This robust, interactive, and intuitive web-based portal is intended to serve as a one-stop shop directing civic-minded citizens to information about voting in the United States of America.

The Voter’s Portal is a project of the Voting Rights Research Repository Project (VRRP), under the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University. 

Why Have a Voter’s Portal 
The idea for a portal arose during a 2018 Civil RightsCenter voting program at ASU, where students asked a panel of experts a series of questions about voter registration, politics, and the political process. We noticed that the panelist directed students to a variety of different websites for answers.  In response, the Civil Rights Center decided to streamline this process by creating a user-friendly, engaging, and informative web portal, designed to address common voter questions, and to direct citizens to online resources to meet their voting related needs.  

 What is the Voting Rights Research Repository Project (VRRRP)?
The Voter’s Portal is a Project of the VRRRP. Created by the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University (Civil Rights Center), the VRRRP is charged with acquiring, preserving, and providing access to voting rights related information and materials.  These resources are used to promote civic engagement and the expansion of American Democracy through public programming and the web-based voting-related information.  

In an effort to highlight the story of voting rights, the VRRRP emphasizes the collection of related oral histories, artifacts, and manuscripts. These resources are deposited in the Alabama State University Archives at the Levi Watkins Learning Center, and they are made available to researchers and laypersons interested in various aspects of voting rights in the United States. 

 The Mission of the Voting Rights Research Repository Project
The Project’s mission, like that of the Civil Rights Center, is to disseminate information about the struggle to extend full voting rights to all American citizens, and to examine and understand forces intended to limit access to the franchise.  For both the general public, academicians, and students, the VRRRP is positioned to shed light on how the struggle over voting rights has evolved in the United States of America over time.  

 What is the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University (Civil Rights Center)?
The Civil Rights Center serves as a clearinghouse for information and materials related to the civil rights movement in the United States, with a particular focus on the state of Alabama, the city of Montgomery, and Alabama State University.  In addition to providing scholars for lectures, presentations and tours, the Center sponsors several programs, including symposia, conferences, film festivals, a lecture series, and an Institute for Research and Cultural Enrichment.  Moreover, there are several projects operated by the Civil Rights Center, including two house museums, the First Baptist Parsonage and Rev. Ralph David Abernathy home, and the Nat King Cole birth home.  The Civil Rights Center also operates a 1960 bus, a museum/art gallery, and is responsible for the placement of several monuments and historic markers in Montgomery, Alabama.  On the ASU campus the Civil Rights Center works with the National Park Service to operate the Montgomery Interpretive Center (MIC), a part of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.  

Why Alabama State University?
ASU is arguably the most appropriate venue for the VRRRP.  In part because the state of Alabama has served as a backdrop for several of the nation’s most important challenges leading to the expansion of voting rights.  The people associated with ASU have been at the epicenter of the mid-twentieth century voting rights campaign.  They include 1951 alumnus Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization responsible for coordinating the 1965 public pressure campaign for remedial federal voting rights legislation, to 1950 alumnus Fred Gray who served as the attorney of record for the Williams v. Wallace case, which effectively paved the way for the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.  As a direct result of the mid-twentieth century Voting Rights movement, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.  Consequently, the campaign and the legislation that flowed from it has ushered into existence a new era of multi-racial politics that effectively transformed the electoral landscape of the American South. 

The landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act serves as a critical factor in the election of minority citizens throughout the United States.  In those states that had been covered by the Act, the total number of Black elected officials rose from seventy-two in 1965, to nearly 1,000 a decade later, and by the mid-1980s, there were more African-Americans in public office across the South than in the rest of the nation combined.  Moreover, in the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama won ninety-three percent of the nation’s African-American vote, seventy-three percent of America’s Asian vote, and seventy-one percent of the nation’s Hispanic vote. Arguably, the 1965 Voting Rights Act has ensured access to the polls for thousands of previously disenfranchised people.  The continued dividends paid by the Voting Rights Act are evident in the increasing diversity among elected officials in recent elections.  In 2018, over 100 Asian Americans won state legislative seats, thirty-six Latinos were elected to the United States House of Representatives, and four Latinos were elected to the United States Senate.  

However, a twenty-first century Supreme Court decision has presented a challenge to ethnically diverse electoral politics.  The Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case has again thrust Alabama into the center of the struggle for voting rights.  In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 4(b) of the 1965 Act unconstitutional, arguing the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight is outdated and needs to be redefined by Congress. Without Congressional action, the ruling opened the door for a wave of new restrictive voting laws that were now not subject to preclearance by the Department of Justice.  This attack on the Voting Rights Act has not gone unchallenged.  

Representative Terri Sewell, again an Alabama native and Ranking Member of the House Administration SubCommittee on Elections, twice introduced a legislative remedy in the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” This proposed legislation, named after long-serving Congressman and Alabama native John Lewis, initially passed in the United States House of Representatives in 2020, but failed to gain enough support in the United States Senate.  The legislation is intended to address the Supreme Courts’ concern that Section 4b formula of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which identifies “covered jurisdictions,” needs to be addressed by Congress.  The new voting legislation will reestablish federal scrutiny for any changes to voter rules that are proposed in states or jurisdictions, which according to the Section 4b, demonstrate a history of voter discrimination.  

In the 2023 Smith v. Milligan case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state of Alabama violated Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, when it created one majority African- American Congressional District, out of seven Congressional Districts across the state.  Even after this Supreme Court edict, the state of Alabama refused to draw more than one African- American Congressional District, and had to be forced to do so through subsequent litigation.

In all, both historic and contemporary voting rights developments in the United States gives ASU a front row seat to the nation’s ongoing battle over access to the vote, and the shape of American democracy.