States now have the authority to enact hundreds of restrictive voting restrictions, eight years after the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. These laws have disproportionately denied people of color and those with limited English language skills access to the ballot box.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would modernize the coverage formula for jurisdictions that require federal preclearance. The bill would protect against voter purges, partisan gerrymandering, and polling location closures.
Voter suppression is any policy or practice that makes it harder to vote or prevents people from voting, and it is a growing threat in our country. These include laws that make it more difficult to register to vote, restrictions on the kinds of ID that voters can use, and attempts to purge voters from the rolls or change their polling places without providing clear notice. These obstacles impact all voters, but communities of color, older people, and those with impairments are disproportionately affected.
Racial or political gerrymandering, in which states create electoral districts intending to ” pack ” or ” crack” particular groups or parties into a small number of districts, is another method used to discourage voting. The ACLU has been fighting for years to stop voter suppression through policies such as these, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would help ensure that the Justice Department has the resources, staff, and freedom it needs to enforce the law.
The VRAA would revitalize the preclearance process created under Section 5 of the VRA, which requires that any state or locality with a history of discrimination in voting submit changes to election laws to the federal government before they go into effect. This would ensure that Black and brown voters aren’t surprised and disenfranchised by sudden, discriminatory changes to the way they vote.
The right to vote is one of the United States’ most significant political victories, and it’s a fundamental freedom that all Americans must enjoy. But for many Americans, that right is still denied.
In the Jim Crow era, White supremacist lawmakers used poll taxes, grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and other restrictions to disenfranchise Black voters. Despite the protections of the Fifteenth Amendment, Black people were systematically removed from the democratic process and left politically powerless.
Today, felony disenfranchisement laws keep 6.1 million citizens from voting. In thirty-two states, those who have served their prison sentences are disenfranchised if they committed crimes of “moral turpitude.” In seven states, the majority of the felon population is excluded from voting rights.1 Those who lose their votes due to these laws live in their communities and work, pay taxes, and care for their families, yet they are barred from electing the politicians who represent them.
The John Lewis Act would restore the federal preclearance system that Congress created and rescind the Supreme Court’s harmful decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted Section 5’s preclearance requirement and opened the floodgates to new discriminatory state laws, including restrictive voter ID bills, polling place closures, purges of voter rolls, and curbs on mail ballots. These policies are making it harder for marginalized communities to vote and have contributed to widening racial gaps in voter turnout nationwide.
Voter ID Laws
Throughout American history, state legislators have used voter ID laws and other tactics to discriminate against minority voters and keep white legislators in power. These discriminatory practices are reminiscent of Jim Crow-era tactics, including literacy tests and poll taxes. The VRAA would reestablish Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which requires states and localities with a history of racial discrimination to get federal approval or preclearance before changing their voting laws and practices. Preclearance was enshrined in the 1965 VRA and enforced by the Department of Justice until 2013 when the Supreme Court struck it down in the Shelby County v. Holder ruling.
Since the Shelby decision, lawmakers have introduced more than 400 bills that make voting harder. These include absentee and mail-in voting restrictions, tightening voter ID laws, limiting access to polling places, and attempting to purge people from the rolls. These measures disproportionately impact elderly, minority, and low-income communities that tend to vote Democratic.
Many voters cannot obtain valid photo IDs because they need help to afford driver’s licenses or live near venues where these can be obtained. In these cases, people may be required to vote using a provisional ballot. They must return to the polling place quickly to present an acceptable form of identification before their votes will count.
Across our country, communities of color have been denied the chance to participate in democracy and make their voices heard through discriminatory redistricting. This process, which redraws district lines for federal, state, and local elections to reflect the population data from the decennial census, allows terrible actors to rig the game by “cracking” and “packing” voters of color into districts that minimize their voting strength.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the VRA’s core preclearance requirement and made it harder to challenge these tactics. This caused a floodgate of voter restrictions like strict voter ID laws, rollbacks of early and mail-in voting, and purges of eligible voters from voter rolls.
As a result, the white-Black turnout gap in 2022 was the widest it has been since 2000, and racial gerrymandering continues to thrive. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would help voters of color by allowing them to file a streamlined case against at-large elections where their votes are disproportionally diluted, giving them a real shot at securing their right to vote.
This initiative also aims to simplify the voting process for individuals with disabilities and those incarcerated while requiring states to facilitate same-day registration and provide a minimum of two weeks for early voting.
Arman Ali, respects both business and technology. He enjoys writing about new business and technical developments. He has previously written content for numerous SaaS and IT organizations. He also enjoys reading about emerging technical trends and advances.