Countdown Day 22:
The Voting Rights Amendment Act is a critical piece of legislation that was proposed by a bipartisan group of Members of Congress in response to the United States Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.
Here is a list of the top ten things you should know about the VRAA:
- The VRAA is a swift response to Shelby v. Holder. When the bill was introduced, Congressman John Lewis noted: “It is unbelievable, it is almost unreal that we were able to come together so quickly to craft a compromise that both Democrats and Republicans and find a way to support and move forward.”
- The VRAA was introduced with strong bipartisan support. Original co-sponsors of the bill included Representatives John Lewis (D-GA-5), James Sensenbrenner (D-WI-5), John Conyers (D-MI-13), and Steve Chabot (R-OH-1). Since its introduction, the VRAA has garnered even more bipartisan support.
- The VRAA is a direct response to Shelby County. The Supreme Court found that voter discrimination still exists but held the determination of which states and jurisdictions are subject to preclearance should be “based on current conditions.” The VRAA represents a measured, flexible and forward-looking attempt by Congress to update the Voting Rights Act.
- The VRAA will subject states and jurisdictions with a recent history of discrimination to the preclearance requirement. Any state or jurisdiction will be subject to the preclearance requirement if it commits a certain number of voting rights violations within a fifteen year time period.
- The VRAA is applicable nationwide. Protections against voting discrimination will be available anywhere they are needed.
- The VRAA provides that no state or jurisdiction is singled out for any reason other than a recent showing of race discrimination in voting.
- The VRAA enhances the ability of victims of race discrimination in voting to stop discriminatory practices before they can go into effect, through a court-ordered preliminary injunction.
- The VRAA allows a court to use preclearance as a remedy when a state or jurisdiction commits a violation of the Voting Rights Act or any other federal law that prohibits race discrimination in voting.
- The VRAA strengthens requirements that the public receive notice before any state or jurisdiction implements a wide array of voting changes.
- The VRAA is not perfect. In some critical ways, it could be stronger. Join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in asking Congress to improve upon the VRAA through the legislative process.
To demonstrate the urgency of updating voting rights protections in Congress, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is counting down to the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, on June 25, 2014.
Last year on that day, the Supreme Court ruled that a critical provision—Section 4(b)—of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. Section 4(b) provided that certain states and jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination must seek “preclearance” of proposed voting changes from the Department of Justice or a federal court in order to ensure they do not discriminate on the basis of race. The Court held that the “coverage formula” improperly relied on historical data regarding voting discrimination, and instead should be based on “current data reflecting current needs.”
Seven months later, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress introduced legislation to respond to the Court’s devastating decision. The bill is called the Voting Rights Amendment Act (“VRAA”), S. 1945 and H.R. 3899. But the VRAA has stalled in Congress. We need your help in moving the VRAA through the legislative process to final passage. Nothing less than the promise of democracy is at stake.
For more information on the VRAA, please see our summary.