The Birmingham Times
The House of Representatives last week passed a bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), meant to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that would make it more difficult for states to discriminate against voters of color.
Sewell’s Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 4, would give the federal government a stronger ability to take action against states with a history of discrimination.
In a mostly party-line vote, the legislation was approved 228-187.
“Voting is personal to me, not only because I represent America’s Civil Rights District—but because it was on the streets of my hometown, Selma, Alabama, that foot soldiers shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that all Americans—regardless of race—could vote!” Sewell said. “I am so proud that, today, the House took critical steps in addressing the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision.”
The Supreme Courts’ 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlined the qualifications needed to determine which states are required by the Justice Department to pre-clear elections changes in states with a history of voter discrimination.
Since the Shelby decision, nearly two-dozen states have implemented restrictive voter ID laws and previously-covered states have closed or consolidated polling places, shortened early voting and imposed other measures that restrict voting.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) seeks to restore the VRA by developing a process to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice. It will also require a nationwide, practice-based pre-clearance of known discriminatory practices, including the creation of at-large districts, inadequate multilingual voting materials, cuts to polling places, changes that reduce the days or hours of in person voting on Sundays during the early voting period and changes to the maintenance of voter registration lists that adds a basis or institutes a new process for removal from the lists, where the jurisdiction includes racial or language minority populations above a certain percent threshold.
Under H.R. 4, there are three ways to become a covered jurisdiction that is required to pre-clear election changes:
1, States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years; or
2, States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years; or
3, Political subdivisions or localities with 3 or more violations in that subdivision in the previous 25 years.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act now heads to the Senate for consideration, where it was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
The bill is supported by more than 60 national organizations, including the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.