Until recently, the federal government monitored states like Arizona — which has the country’s fifth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population — that had a demonstrated history of racial discrimination at the polls. Arizona was one of nine states, along with other jurisdictions, required by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, to get federal approval before making changes to its voting laws. But in 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act, ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that they were based on outdated data. In response, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that would strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have introduced the Voting Rights Amendment of 2014. But under their plan, only four states – Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi – would initially be subject to federal supervision.
“The good (news) is that states like Texas with a notorious history with voting violations are covered. The bad is that a state like Arizona is not,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
The bill allows more jurisdictions to be added if a court finds evidence of voting discrimination against a minority group. It would require that all states and localities provide public notice of any redistricting or changes to voting laws within 180 days of a federal election, and would make it easier to seek an injunction against a potentially discriminatory voting law.