LatinoJustice Commends Introduction of Voting Rights Advancement Act
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LatinoJustice PRLDEF thanks the sponsors of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (“The Advancement Act”) for boldly introducing a bill that responds effectively to the Supreme Court opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Section 4(b) contained the formula that previously determined which jurisdictions, counties and states must seek prior approval, or “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice for any voting changes before they could be implemented. Even though it struck down this coverage formula, however, the Court left the preclearance framework in Section 5 of the VRA intact, and indicated that Congress may develop another formula to combat voting discrimination based on “current data reflecting current needs.”
- A modernized preclearance formula designed to cover states with patterns of voting discrimination that put voters at risk;
- Protection from the voting changes most likely to discriminate against people of color and language minorities;
- A 180-day public notice period to ensure transparency for any new voting changes and to prevent last minute voting changes that adversely impact any voters;
- Strengthening and expanding the Federal Observer Program;
- Strengthening the ability of the federal courts to use discretion when ordering preclearance remedies;
- Improving voting rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 is a direct response to the Court’s call for contemporary voting rights protections, with narrowly tailored remedies designed to address modern violations and discriminatory practices. In the two years since the Shelby decision, states and localities across the country have enacted discriminatory voter restrictions across the country. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would address this modern-day assault on the right to vote in a number of concrete ways, including:
Despite widespread evidence of voting discrimination, Congress has failed to restore and strengthen the crucial protections of the Voting Rights Act. If Congress doesn’t act soon, the American people will experience the first presidential election in more than 50 years without the crucial protections of the Voting Rights Act.
Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel for LatinoJustice, stated: “LatinoJustice PRLDEF proudly endorses The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, which calls upon Congress to strengthen and advance voting rights protections for all Americans. Congress must address the reality that many Americans continue to face discriminatory barriers and burdens in exercising their right to vote today. As our population becomes increasingly diverse, the next generation must be able to look to meaningful legal protections that safeguard equal access to participation and representation.”
For two years, Congress has dragged its feet on this issue and let voting discrimination weaken our democracy. As it first did in 1965, and for every reauthorization since then, Congress must come together now to protect the right to vote for all Americans.