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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.