Please Track the Progress of the Proposed Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014
On January 16, 2014, 20 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 13 Democrats and seven Republicans — and one U.S. senator introduced H.R. 3899 in the House and S. 1945 in the Senate, respectively. It’s known as The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. This bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee to consider before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate for a vote. The primary purpose of the proposed bipartisan bill is to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) and revise the criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions are subject to Section 4 of the Act.
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BACKGROUND: THE VRA OF 1965 AND THE JUNE 25, 2013 U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION
Congress passed the VRA of 1965 to prohibit discrimination in voting based on race, color, or English-language proficiency. Together, Sections 4 and 5 addressed voter protections – predominantly for people of color – in states, counties and cities that had a history of discrimination. This legislation compelled nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and parts of six others (in California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota) to clear their voting changes with the federal government.
In the June 25, 2013 Shelby County v. Holder opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA of 1965, which impacted the utility of Section 5. The Shelby County v. Holder opinion has the potential to leave many voters, including Native Americans in states such as South Dakota and Arizona, vulnerable to having their right to vote denied.
THE VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENT ACT OF 2014 IN A NUTSHELL
The VRA of 2014 proposes to do the following to protect voter rights:
- Provide for a set of revised criteria that will serve as a formula for determining which states and other political subdivisions must seek pre-clearance from the federal government before implementing voting changes;
- Require the public to be widely notified of voting changes made within 180 days of an election;
- Enhance the ability of groups to freeze potentially discriminatory voting changes via court-issued preliminary injunction;
- Restore the U.S. Department of Justice’s ability to send federal observers to monitor inside the polls in certain jurisdictions; and
- Facilitate the addition of jurisdictions required to seek preclearance from the federal government before implementing voting changes by removing the requirement that plaintiffs prove that the voting violations were intentional.
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