The U.S. elected its 45th president on Nov. 8.

Voting issues

How did the weakened Voting Rights Act impact election results?

How did the newly weakened Voting Rights Act impact election results? 

In short, it's very hard to know yet.

Tuesday election was the first since a monumental Supreme Court ruling in 2013 struck down key part of Voting Rights Act, leading to sweeping changes in voting rules across a swath of Southern states and several other districts or states that had historically discriminated against minorities.

Those changes included new voter ID requirements, as well as closing or changing locations of hundreds and likely thousands of polling sites, shifts that used to require federal approval.

Studies and some court rulings have said that ID laws have disproportionately impacted racial minorities, a group that tends to vote Democratic.

The Supreme Court ruled over the summer that new North Carolina voting rules targeted black Americans with "almost surgical precision."

A preliminary report from the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition said voters faced numerous obstacles on Tuesday, including incorrect enforcement of voter ID laws.

The group said it logged 35,000 complaints from round the country for alleged voter intimidation, long lines and other problems.

But voting experts say that doesn't necessarily mean -- at least not yet -- that the new ID rules and other changes affected  election results.

The reason: it's impossible to know who or how many people didn't vote because of new voting restrictions, and it's also difficult to say how they might have voted.

"It's difficult to make a direct link between the results that we're seeing so far and the Voting Rights Act," said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Brennan Center for Justice. Austin-Hillery said she was concerned that voter ID rules may have had a "chilling effect on voters" showing up at the polls.

On the presidential level, the Southern states that made up the largest area impacted by changes to the Voting Rights Act are states that have voted Republican for decades.

Still, civil rights groups said Tuesday's election showed why it was necessary to fully reinstate the Voting Rights Act.

“We will learn more in the coming days about the specifics of the challenges faced by voters around the country, but we already know the truth: The Voting Rights Act is vital and necessary to protect our elections," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

"Voters were confused because of changes to their polling places and a lack of accurate information provided to them by their state officials," she said in a statement.

"In jurisdictions formerly covered by the Voting Rights Act, voters saw 868 polling places closed, forcing too many people to travel as far as 25 miles just to be able to vote," said Ifill, who monitored voting sites in Alabama, where new ID laws were used.

This year "should go down in history as the only presidential election of the modern era without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act," she added.

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