June 24, 2015

Whitehouse Cosponsors Bill to Strengthen Voting Rights Act Protections

Washington, DC – Today a group of Senators and House Members introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) of 2015 to restore and strengthen the protections of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The bill was cosponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and comes two years after the Supreme Court gutted core protections in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder

“The Voting Rights Act has stood for generations as a bulwark against discrimination at the ballot box, upholding the promise that every citizen has a say in our democracy,” Whitehouse said.  “This legislation will extend that promise to a new generation of Americans, and I am proud to stand with Senator Leahy in supporting it.”

Following the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, states and localities throughout the country have passed laws that disproportionately suppress the voting rights of minorities and the disabled.  These laws have left voters without the protections they need to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.  The VRAA protections will extend to all voters nationwide.  In particular, the legislation targets certain voting practices known to suppress the voting rights of minorities and the disabled. 

Key provisions of the VRAA 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.

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