AS OUR NATION PREPARES FOR THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION THE VOTING RIGHTS ADVANCEMENT ACT WOULD ENSURE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO VOTE FOR ALL AMERICANS
The right to vote is one of the most valuable, and many would argue even sacred constitutional rights granted to most Americans. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was enacted to insure that those Constitution 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, no one, including federal, state or local government may in any way impede people from registering to vote or voting because of their race or ethnicity. Most provisions in the VRA, and specifically the portions that guarantee that no one may be denied the right to vote because of his or her race or color, are permanent.
Section 5 of the VRA requires certain states or jurisdictions, which have an established history of laws or policies which result in the disenfranchisement of a group of racial or ethnic minority voters to obtain advance approval or “preclearance” from the US Department of Justice or the US District Court in D.C. before they can make any changes to voting practices or procedures. Examples of these changes include any change in the date, time, place, or manner under which an election is held. Federal approval is to be given as soon as the state or jurisdiction proves that the proposed change would not abridge the right to vote on account of race or color.
On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Shelby v. Holder in which the Court did not invalidate the principle of preclearance. The Supreme Court did decide, however, that Section 4(b) of the VRA, which establishes the formula that is used to determine which states and jurisdictions must comply with preclearance, is antiquated and thus unconstitutional and can no longer be used. Thus, although Section 5 survives, it is currently not being used and will not be used until Congress enacts a new formula to determine who should be covered by it.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act, S. 1659, is sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and more than 30 others. Companion legislation, H.R. 2867 was introduced in the U.S. House by Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Congressman John Lewis (GA) on behalf of themselves, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus among others. This seminal legislation would: modernize the preclearance formula to cover states with an historical pattern of discrimination; ensure that last-minute voting changes won’t adversely affect voters; protect voters from the types of voting changes most likely to discriminate against people of color and language minorities; enhance the ability to apply a preclearance review when needed; expand the effective Federal Observer Program; and improve voting Rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Furthermore, this legislation includes all of the priorities necessary for a strong VRA restoration as established by the NAACP National Board of Directors.
We must tell Congress – both the House and the Senate – that the time to act is now! We must not delay and allow one more American to face unnecessary, unconstitutional, and undemocratic obstacles as they try to vote.
THE NAACP STRONGLY SUPPORTS S. 1659 / H.R. 2867 AND URGES ALL OF THE PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN THE BILL BE ENACTED.