Congressional Democrats are expected to unveil new legislation this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday, that if passed would restore the requirement for federal approval for voting procedure changes in some states, a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court two years ago. The legislation, titled “The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015,” would force any state that has had 15 or more voting rights violations in the last 25 years to be subject to federal preclearance for any change in voting procedure or law. That criterion would initially subject 13 states to preclearance: New York, California, Arkansas, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post. Those states would be able to free themselves of the preclearence provision by going 10 consecutive years without a voting rights violation.
The bill is the latest in what has been an ongoing effort to restore the preclearence provision of the Voting Rights Act, which required many southern states to have any change to voting laws cleared by federal officials. The Supreme Court, in its 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, tossed the formula used to determine which states need preclearence, effectively ending the federal government’s role as a monitor to state voting changes until a new formula is approved by Congress.
The bill, an ambitious piece of legislation, is a departure from the tactics employed last year during efforts to restore the preclearence provision. Legislation introduced last year would have subjected only four states to preclearence. In an attempt to attract bipartisan support, sponsors ended up losing the backing of some civil rights groups that did not believe that it went far enough.