John Lewis & Others Introduce Bill to Establish Preclearance Requirements for the Voting Rights Act

June 26, 2015

Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the criteria developed in the 1960s that was used to determine which states and localities would be subject to federal approval before making changes to voting districts and procedures, a group of Democrats are introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. The bill is sponsored in the House of Representatives by John Lewis of Atlanta, and in the Senate by Patrick Leahy of Vermont, among others.

The bill’s main feature creates a 25 year lookback period. A state would be subject to preclearance if 15 or more voting rights violations occurred during that period, while a locality would be covered if three or more violations would be found. The preclearance requirement would last for ten years following the most recent violation. Because the lookback period covers the most recent 25 years, it should, in theory, avoid the problems cited by the Court with the previous formula. According to the Washington Post, the new criteria would cover 13 states, including Georgia and all its neighboring states.

You can read a summary of the bill’s sections, or read the entire Senate version of the bill here. In a prepared statment, Congressman Lewis said,

The vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy. There is no other work more important in this or any Congress than protecting the full access of all Americans to the democratic process. We should make it simple and easy for people to make their voices heard in our society.

If it was not clear in 2014, I think it is clear today that we have come a great distance in this country toward healing the divisions and problems among us, but we are not there yet. This legislation acknowledges that we still have much more work to do, but we have come too far, and we have made too much progress to stop now.

I support this legislation and hope that this Congress will do what is right by the people of this nation and pass the voting rights legislation that restores justice, dignity, and equal access to the ballot box in America

According to Religion News Service, Lewis met with a group of Progressive National Baptist Convention pastors at a Thursday briefing, and said, “It’s time again for religious leaders, the ministers of the gospel, to get in trouble. There are forces in our country, in Washington and all around America, want to take us back. But we’re not going back. We’ve made too much progress. We’re going forward. We need to fix it before next year’s election. We have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate to do it.”

Prospects for the bill, which has no Republican co-sponsors are unknown. A bipartisan measure that would have subjected four states to preclearance went nowhere in 2014.

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