Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) voted to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act and combat voter discrimination.
“Since Shelby v. Holder, we’ve seen a coordinated effort to implement voter discrimination laws that have taken us backwards. These voter suppression tactics have disenfranchised too many Americans, including in Virginia, disproportionately impacting people of color,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “Now more than ever, we need the Voting Rights Advancement Act to strengthen and restore the Voting Rights Act. If we want to ensure the integrity of our democracy, then every American needs to have fair and equal access to the ballot box.”
“Voting is personal to me, not only because I represent America’s Civil Rights District—but because it was on the streets of my hometown, Selma, Alabama, that foot soldiers shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that all Americans—regardless of race—could vote!” New Democrat Coalition Vice Chair Terri Sewell said. “I am so proud that, today, the House took critical steps in addressing the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision and passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength.”
“No American seeking access to the ballot box should be subject to voter discrimination or suppression,” said Pastor Michelle Thomas, President of the Loudoun NAACP. “It’s vital we strengthen our commitment to ensuring every voter’s voice be heard in our democracy. I applaud the passage of this important legislation and thank Congresswoman Wexton for her fierce advocacy of voting rights.”
The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL), directly addresses issues raised by the Supreme Court in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling that struck down Section 4(b) of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. This provision outlined the qualifications used to determine which states must preclear their election changes with the Department of Justice. Since the Court’s decision, a rush of voter suppression laws have been passed by states across the country, including voter ID laws here in Virginia, restrictions that have been found to disproportionately impact people of color. These restrictive laws contributed to Virginia being named the second-hardest state in which to vote in 2018.
The bill develops a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations must preclear election changes with the Department of Justice. The legislation will require a practice-based preclearance for known discriminatory practices such as inadequate multilingual voting materials, reductions in polling locations, or the creation of at-large districts. Provisions in the bill will also increase election transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for any voting changes.