At least for some Americans, it could be harder to vote in next year’s presidential election than in any for several decades. And yet, there are genuine reasons for new-found optimism about the state of U.S. voting rights. If that sounds hard to square, consider that perhaps for the first time this century, there’s now unquestionably more energy behind efforts to make voting easier than to make it harder. Continuing a trend that began after the 2012 election, numerous mostly blue states — with an important nudge from Hillary Clinton — have introduced, and sometimes passed, a slew of expansive bills, including one idea that could transform access to the ballot. Meanwhile, the march of major new GOP-backed restrictions that characterized the period from 2011 to 2014 essentially came to a halt. But voting rights advocates are a long way from celebrating. Nothing happened to undo existing restrictions, and the worst of them remain in place. And as 2016 approaches, the Roberts Court, with its conservative majority, looks likely to play the lead role in shaping the voting landscape going forward.
Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, summed up the best-of-times, worst-of-times atmosphere. “We’ve seen increasing momentum toward improving the voting system, and in particular voter registration, across the country over the last couple years,” said Weiser. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t get us out of the water. We’re still facing the unsettling prospect of an election with new restrictions across the country and a weakened Voting Rights Act.”
First, the bad news: The 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) — and “Selma,” a high-profile movie about the legendary activists who pushed for it — put a national spotlight on the importance of the landmark civil rights law. But though some Congressional Republicans were eager to be photographed marking the occasion in Selma, Alabama, they were far less interested in taking action to restore the VRA to full strength, after it was gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. Neither of two bills introduced this year to bolster the law — one a holdover from last year — received so much as a hearing.
“To this point, we have not seen a process forward that is necessary,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in January.
Full Article: In 2015, hope and fear on voting rights | MSNBC.