June 24, 2015

Warner, Kaine Join Senate, House Colleagues To Introduce Legislation To Restore And Advance The Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two years after the Supreme Court removed core protections in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined a group of their colleagues to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (VRAA), legislation that would restore and advance voting protections for all Americans. Since the Supreme Court ruling, states and localities throughout the country have passed sweeping laws that disproportionately suppress the voting rights of traditionally marginalized groups, like racial, ethnic, and language minorities, and the disabled. These laws have left voters without the protections they need to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. 

“A foundation of our society is that each of us has a duty to protect Americans’ access to the democratic process.  Unfortunately, 50 years after passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act, we still see efforts to limit access to the ballot box,” said Warner. “Following the Shelby County v. Holder decision, it is important that we provide a legislative fix to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act, and this legislation does just that.”

“This legislation aims to reverse a troublesome trend of voter suppression and discrimination that still exists in parts of the country today,” Kaine said. “By ending these discriminatory practices we can restore a fundamental right that makes up the fabric and essence of our democracy. I’m proud to join my colleagues in this bicameral effort that would protect critical voting rights, place greater transparency in the federal election process and ensure that the next generation of Americans will always be free to exercise their right to vote.”

Co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL), Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA), and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), introduced an identical measure in the House.

Protections under the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 will extend to all voters nationwide.  The legislation targets certain voting practices known to suppress the voting rights of minorities and the disabled.  The bill is the result of collaboration with those at the grassroots who have witnessed the harmful effects discriminatory voting laws have had in their communities.

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • A new geographic coverage formula that is based on current conditions.  The bill establishes a “rolling” nationwide trigger that continuously moves so that only states that have a recent record of racial discrimination in voting would be covered.
  • Allows federal courts to bail in states for preclearance.  Current law permits states or jurisdictions to be bailed in if an intentional violation can be shown.  The new legislation offers more protection by allowing a court to bail in states or jurisdictions whose voting practices have discriminatory results.
  • Greater transparency in federal elections to ensure that voters are made aware of late-breaking changes in voting procedures.  The additional sunlight will deter discrimination from occurring and protect voters from discrimination.
  • Revises the standard for preliminary injunctions for voting rights court cases, allowing a court at the start of litigation to immediately halt a challenged voting practice until a final ruling.  This provision recognizes that when voting rights are at stake, stopping a discriminatory practice after the election has already concluded is too late to vindicate voters’ rights. 

An outline of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 can be found here, and a sectional analysis can be found here.  Text of legislation can also be found online.

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