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The Rev. Fred C. Bennette Jr., a civil rights movement organizer, right, instructs Black people in Atlanta how to fill out registration forms in 1963. Credit: Horace Cort/AP Photo

The Modern-Day Literacy Test for Voters

One in five Americans struggles to read. A new wave of laws has made voting even harder for Americans with low literacy skills.

The myth of election fraud has fueled a barrage of new voter restrictions in the past two years. States, including several in the South, have made the election process more challenging for voters with low literacy skills — a continuation of one of the most sustained and brazen suppression campaigns in America. Florida, for example, expanded the radius around election locations in which volunteers are prohibited from asking people if they need help.

As the midterms approach, turnout of voters with low literacy skills could be important. About 48 million Americans, or more than one-fifth of the adult population, struggle to read, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. ProPublica analyzed voter participation and literacy data for over 3,000 counties across the United States from the last three national elections and found that voter participation tends to decrease where literacy rates decline. Additionally, if low-literacy counties had turnout similar to high-literacy counties, up to about 7 million votes could have been added to the national total.

At this event, we will examine how literacy has been weaponized to suppress voters, address voting rights and provide resources for voters who struggle to read. Our speakers include:

  • Aliyya Swaby, ProPublica reporter
  • Annie Waldman, ProPublica reporter
  • Faye Combs, literacy advocate
  • Olivia Coley-Pearson, city commissioner in Douglas

This event has ended.