Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) are reintroducing their bill to restore part of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, despite warnings by prominent Republicans that they won’t support it. The bill aims to revive a section of the Voting Rights Act that had required states with a history of racial discrimination to approve voting changes with the Justice Department. The Supreme Court overturned the formula in 2013, determining the criteria were outdated. The proposed overhaul from Sensenbrenner and Conyers would create new criteria for “pre-clearance,” allowing courts to place states under that standard if they commit certain voting violations. The bill would also give the Justice Department more power to step in before an election takes place to protect voting rights.
Conyers, a sponsor of the original Voting Rights Act, called the Supreme Court decision “a critical blow” to the VRA’s “future relevancy” and one that will make it “more difficult to challenge existing barriers.”
“Though the Shelby County v. Holder decision struck at the heart of the Act, today, it is with much pride that my colleagues and I are reintroducing a renewed Voting Rights Amendment Act to reaffirm our constitutional commitment to protecting the right to vote.”
The Brennan Center for Justice said in a report released last year that the Shelby County decision has led to a number of localities previously covered by pre-clearance enacting voting rights changes that negatively impact Americans’ right to vote.
“The year since Shelby County tells only the beginning of a story, but even that beginning points to the tools and accountability that have been lost, and the necessity that our lawmakers recover them,” the report says.