Dems introduce bills to restore Voting Rights Act provision

Dems introduce bills to restore Voting Rights Act provision
© Stefani Reynolds

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday unveiled legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act that would require certain jurisdictions to secure approval from the federal government before making voting changes.

The preclearance provision was tossed by the Supreme Court in 2013, with the majority arguing that the formula used by Congress to determine which jurisdictions were required to clear voting changes was outdated.

A spokesperson for Rep. Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellHouse Democrat explains decision to back impeachment: 'We've crossed a Rubicon' Sunday shows lineup: Trump impeachment dominates the talk circuit Live coverage: House panel to hear about whistleblower complaint MORE (D-Ala.), the lead sponsor of the House legislation, told HuffPost that 11 states would be expected to be returned to preclearance under the provision: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

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Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Senator questions agencies on suicide prevention, response after Epstein's death in federal custody During impeachment storm, senators cross aisle to lessen mass incarceration MORE (D-Vt.) on Tuesday introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber. The bill is backed by 46 senators, according to a news release on Leahy's website.

The bills would institute a new formula that "applies to all states and hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years," according to a fact sheet on Leahy's website. If a state was found to have experienced multiple violations within a quarter-century period, officials would be required to obtain federal approval before making changes to state voting systems.

Sewell's and Leahy's bills also "allows the Attorney General authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting," according to Leahy's website.

Sewell, who grew up in the town of Selma, Alabama, where Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' Ossoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says MORE (D-Ga.) once led a major civil rights march, said in a statement that the bill would allow the Justice Department to stop future efforts aimed at voter suppression.

“In my hometown of Selma and throughout Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, Americans bled, marched and died for the right to vote, but the modern-day voter suppression we saw in the 2018 mid-term elections shows that old battles have become new again," she said in a statement.

"Voter suppression efforts are unacceptable and un-American. But because of the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, they are almost impossible to stop. The Voting Right Advancement Act we are introducing today would restore and bolster the Voting Rights Act, as well as undo the damage done by the Shelby County decision," Leahy said in a statement.

House Democrats, led by Sewell, previously pledged to make voting rights and a response to the 2013 court decision their top priority in the new Congress, which convened in January under a new Democratic majority.

The Senate version of the bill is expected to meet heavy resistance from the GOP-led majority in the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatient advocates launch drug pricing ad campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs War of words at the White House MORE (R-Ky.) took aim at Democratic-led efforts to expand voting rights in a fiery floor speech on Tuesday.

"Speaker Pelosi’s massive, new federal takeover of the way states and communities run their elections — contains no effort whatsoever to crack down on ballot harvesting," McConnell said, according to The Washington Examiner.

“This practice makes elections a kind of scavenger hunt to see which side’s operatives can return to headquarters with the most ballots in the trunk of their car. And once those operatives take a hold of those ballots, the voters have no way to keep tabs on whether they were ever delivered," he added.