The 2016 election is one year away and many states and cities hold local elections today. But not everyone will be able to cast a ballot this year or next. The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. Twenty-one states have put new voting restrictions in place since the 2010 election, with voters in 15 states facing these obstacles for the first presidential cycle in 2016, including in crucial swing states like North Carolina and Wisconsin. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting the law, but neither the modest Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 or the more ambitious Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, which both have bipartisan support, have moved legislatively.
Today congressional Democrats unveiled a new strategy to build support for the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill compels states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, requires federal approval for voter-ID laws and similar measures, and outlaws new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.
Every Tuesday while in session members of Congress will speak about the importance of voting rights, calling it “Restoration Tuesday,” spotlight stories of modern-day barriers to voting and rally on social media with the hashtag #RestoreTheVOTE & #RestorationTuesday.
Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL), who represents Selma, calls it “a consistent effort by legislators to build a coalition toward getting this bill passed.” Sewell sees her home state as a case study for the need to restore the VRA.