The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) strongly supports the Voting Rights Advancement Act (the Advancement Act), introduced today in the Senate and the House. The bill represents a welcome effort by Members of Congress to restore critical voting rights protections in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act exactly two years ago in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder

In Shelby County, the Court found that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act—the formula for determining which jurisdictions must seek prior approval, or preclearance, of voting changes—was unconstitutional because it relied on historical data. However, the Court upheld the preclearance mechanism itself, Section 5, and suggested that Congress could enact another formula to redress voting discrimination based on “current data reflecting current needs.”

The Advancement Act introduced today responds to the Supreme Court’s directive. It contains proposals which are modest, narrowly drawn and designed to address only recent discriminatory practices.  The proposals are uniform in that they protect against voting discrimination anywhere in the country.  They include many necessary elements that will move our nation towards equal access to the democratic process, such as:

  • A modern preclearance formula to cover states with a pattern of discrimination in voting;
  • Protection for voters from the types of voting changes most likely to discriminate against people of color and language minorities;
  • Ensuring that last minute voting changes will not adversely affect voters;
  • Expansion of the highly effective Federal Observer Program;
  • Enhancing the ability to apply for preclearance review and for federal courts to use discretion in ordering a preclearance remedy; and
  • Improving voting rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

The Advancement Act is the most recent attempt by Congress to update the Voting Rights Act consistent with the Supreme Court’s invitation in Shelby County. In January 2014, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act, S. 1945 and H.R. 3899. That bill never received a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee or the House Judiciary Committee. Now, with two bills introduced to restore vitally needed protections after Shelby County, Congress should move forward with consideration of both proposals. 

Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, stated: “Since Shelby County, we have seen a resurgence of laws and practices around the country to increase barriers to voting and dilute the voting strength of communities of color. As we celebrate this 50th anniversary year of the Selma March and passage of the Voting Rights Act, it is inconceivable that the right to vote now faces its greatest threat in modern history. The recent senseless acts of violence against African-American congregants in Charleston have once again required us to admit that racial justice continues to elude us in multiple facets of American life.  This sad fact makes it more imperative that communities of color have unfettered access to the political process at every level and in every way.” 

Leslie Proll, Director of LDF’s Washington, D.C. office who worked with Congress to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006, stated: “Our nation cannot afford to be without fully restored voting rights protections for one day longer. For 50 years, Congress has vigorously upheld this country’s democratic ideals by ensuring a robust Voting Rights Act to provide all citizens the opportunity to meaningfully participate. The 114th Congress should heed the call of history and do the same.”  

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization.  Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.   

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