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Bipartisan Bill Introduced: Congress Must Restore Voting Rights Act

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, members of Congress today reintroduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen and restore the law’s core protection, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in 2013.

February 11, 2015

2015 Marks 50th Anniversary of Land­mark Law

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – To mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, members of Congress today rein­tro­duced a bipar­tisan bill to strengthen and restore the law’s core protec­tion, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in 2013.

The meas­ure is sponsored by Reps. James Sensen­bren­ner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and others. The bill was also intro­duced last year, but the Senate held just one hear­ing on the legis­la­tion, and the House refused to hold a hear­ing.

In 2014, Amer­ic­ans exper­i­enced their first elec­tion without key Voting Rights Act protec­tions in place — which led to voting discrim­in­a­tion across the coun­try. In Texas, for example, a federal judge found 600,000 registered voters lacked the photo ID now needed. The require­ment, the judge ruled, makes it harder for minor­it­ies to vote, was enacted to inten­tion­ally discrim­in­ate against minor­it­ies, and uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally burdens the right to vote.

“Fifty years ago, tragedy in the streets of Selma galvan­ized our nation to pass the Voting Rights Act and bring equal­ity to the ballot box,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and coun­sel of the Bren­nan Center’s Wash­ing­ton, D.C., office. “Today, that core protec­tion is in tatters and discrim­in­a­tion contin­ues to tarnish our elec­tions. Amer­ica was foun­ded on the prin­ciple that we are all ‘cre­ated equal.’ To fulfill that prom­ise, we need an elec­tion system that works well for every­one, and does­n’t toler­ate discrim­in­a­tion against anyone. We urge Congress to quickly pass this bill and ensure Amer­ic­ans have strong voting protec­tions in time for the 2016 elec­tion.”

The Voting Rights Amend­ment Act would, among other changes:

  • Require juris­dic­tions with a recent record of repeated Voting Rights Act viol­a­tions to pre-clear elec­tion law changes.
  • Expand the current “bail-in” proced­ures, which allow courts to subject juris­dic­tions to preclear­ance.  
  • Create a uniform require­ment to inform voters of certain pending voting changes.
  • Enhance the abil­ity of lawyers to halt discrim­in­at­ory elec­tion meas­ures before they can harm citizens.
  • Allow federal observ­ers to monitor elec­tions to ensure compli­ance with laws protect­ing the rights of Amer­ic­ans who speak limited English.

Read the Bren­nan Center’s analysis, Shelby County: One Year Later, detail­ing the contro­ver­sial elec­tion changes made since the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act ruling.

For more inform­a­tion, or to set up an inter­view, please contact Seth Hoy at seth.hoy@nyu.edu or 646–292–8369.