CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – The National Urban League released its annual “State of Black America” report, which covers progress and setbacks in racial equality across the country. This year, they focused on democracy and voting access.

The league says several states proposed policies in 2021 that would restrict voters, and that those policies affect districts with high populations of people of color.

“On the community level, nothing is more important than registering people to vote and making sure they turn out,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said. “When we looked up and saw 400 bills introduced in state legislatures in 2021, all to restrict the right to vote, this was a increase of 100 fold over what you would normally see.”

Limiting mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and early voting are a few of the ways several states have restricted voting. The National Urban League said that has set equality behind.

“The effort to make it more difficult for people to vote in many states – it’s focused, it’s targeted at many black and brown communities,” he said.

Some nearby states were highlighted in the report for their proposed restrictions.

“Traditionally in the Jim Crow days, you saw it in the South. Now you see it in states in the Midwest. States like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin,” he said.

But here in Illinois, NAACPCC President Minnie Pearson said she hasn’t felt the issue.

“I hope it’s not an indication of how things are going to go all over. But right now, I feel pretty positive about the way things are going in Champaign County,” Pearson said.

She said she’s focused on things like healthcare, education and criminal justice reform. But, the most pressing issue is the increase in gun violence. And while Champaign has invested in several programs and tools to protect people, there’s still a lot to do.

“People are working really hard. And it’s appreciated. At the same time, we have to assess, and tweak and see what we can do to help get this under control,” she said.

She said all community leaders want the same thing – peace in our neighborhoods and a safe place for everyone to live.