Terri Sewell Intros Bill to Restore Voting Rights
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) on Tuesday introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to restore protections to the Voting Rights Act stripped by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. Since Shelby County v. Holder, elections have taken place under laws that were later found in court to be intentionally discriminatory. The effects were immediate. Within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas announced that it would implement a strict photo ID law. Two other states, Mississippi and Alabama, also began to enforce photo ID laws that had previously been barred because of federal preclearance. In states across the country and, particularly, in many previously covered under the preclearance requirements of the VRA, new state laws and voting procedures have diluted the voting rights of certain vulnerable communities -- the elderly, disabled, minority groups, and younger voters. In the 2018 midterm elections, there were numerous examples of voter suppression. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for Governor was accused of using his powers as secretary of state to put 53,000 voter registrations on hold, nearly 70% of which belonged to Black voters. In North Carolina, the state legislature closed 20% of early voting locations in 2018. In New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, students faced higher hurdles to cast their ballots. The bill would institute a new formula that applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years. If a state was found to have experienced multiple violations within a quarter-century period, officials would be required to obtain federal approval before making changes to state voting systems. The measure also allows the Attorney General authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting. “Changes to state voting laws are leading the United States in the wrong direction and leaving the voices of millions of citizens behind. The road to justice is long and winding, but no citizen deserves to be left in the rearview mirror,” Sewell said. “A strong democracy removes barriers and improves access, so EVERY citizen can vote. For a more perfect union, we must restore the VRA.” Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber. More here.