Bill seeks to revive Voting Rights Act

Published 10:56 am Friday, January 17, 2014


Members of Congress introduced a bipartisan bill Jan. 16 to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June striking down the Act’s preclearance provision.

U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and John Conyers, D-Mich., joined with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to introduce “The Voting Rights Act Amendment of 2014,” an attempt to “uphold the most vital principles of the historic voting law.”

The bill, supported by a range of civil rights groups, is a response to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which outlines a formula that determined which states were required to obtain federal approval — or preclearance — before making any changes affecting voting and elections.

Section 4 covered nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and parts of six others — California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota — based on evidence of the states’ history of disenfranchising minority voters.

The bill updates the coverage formula by making all states and jurisdictions eligible for coverage formula based on voting violations in the last 15 years. States and jurisdictions that have had a clean record over the last 15 years would not be subject to coverage. According to congressional sources, the amendment would not immediately affect Alabama.

“Through months of negotiation and compromise, Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Conyers and I have agreed on a bipartisan and bicameral proposal to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision last summer,” Leahy said in a news release. “Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color. We believe that this is a strong bipartisan bill that accomplishes this goal and that every member of Congress can support.”

An outline of the bill can be found here.