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Two Years After Shelby County: Congress Must Restore Voting Rights Act

Voting discrimination is harder to stop since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act two years ago. Unless Congress acts, 2016 will be the first presidential election in 50 years without these key protections in place.

June 24, 2015

Senate and House leaders today introduced a new bill — the Voting Rights Advancement Act — to restore core Voting Rights Act protections, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in June 2013.

Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new laws in place making it harder to vote — and many of these restrictions were pushed forward after the Supreme Court struck down key voting protections two years ago in the Shelby County v. Holder decision. In 14 states, the 2016 election will be the first time these rules will be in effect for a presidential election, which is marked by high turnout.

“Voting discrimination has become harder to stop since the Supreme Court invalidated core Voting Rights Act protections two years ago. Several states pushed forward new restrictive requirements,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C., office. “America needs an election system that works well for everyone, and tolerates discrimination against no one.”

“Unless Congress acts, 2016 will be the first presidential election in 50 years without key voting protections in place,” added Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Center’s Democracy Program. “America was founded on the principle that we are all ‘created equal.’ To fulfill that promise, Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act to ensure every American can cast a ballot and make their voice heard.”

Today’s bill was introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) in the Senate, and Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) in the House.

In February, Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and others also introduced a bill, first proposed in 2014, to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Both plans would restore voting protections gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder.

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