Bipartisan Bill Introduced: Congress Must Restore Voting Rights Act

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.