Only seven months after the Supreme Court shattered the Voting Rights Act, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has come up with a bill that would go a long way toward putting it back together. If they can persuade Republicans in Congress to set aside partisanship and allow it to pass, they would begin to restore justice to a deeply damaged electoral process. It would be an ideal way to observe the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week. The bill is far from perfect. In particular, it does not give enough weight to the discriminatory effect of voter ID laws. But it would make it more difficult for states and localities to take other actions that reduce minority voting rights. Jurisdictions would once again be put under Justice Department supervision if they committed multiple violations of the Constitution. All states and cities would be required to make public any last-minute changes to election practices, an improvement over current law, which requires such public notice in just a few states. And the bill would make it easier to stop harmful voting changes in court before they happen.
The Supreme Court’s decision last June struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which set the formula that determined which states and localities, based on their histories of discrimination, were required to get preapproval for voting changes from the Justice Department. The court’s majority ruled that the formula was obsolete, imposing a burden on states without proof that they still discriminate. The court invited Congress to come up with a new formula.
That’s what the new bill does. Any state that has committed five or more election violations in a 15-year period, as determined by a court, would fall under federal supervision of voting changes. Cities and counties would be supervised if they committed three violations in 15 years, or if they committed a single violation and had persistently low minority turnout during that period. That supervision would allow the Justice Department to block newly imposed voter ID requirements.
Full Article: A Step Toward Restoring Voting Rights – NYTimes.com.