Anyone concerned about voting rights will remember 2013 as the year the Supreme Court neutered one of the strongest protections against voter suppression, the “preclearance” requirement of the Voting Rights Act. Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) had required that nine states (as well as dozens of counties) – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia – all needed to abide by Section 5 preclearance requirements. Three counties in California, Five counties in Florida, three counties in New York, 40 counties in North Carolina, two counties in South Carolina, and two towns in Michigan also needed to have new election laws approved by the Department of Justice until last June. (as well as dozens of counties) with long histories of voter discrimination get any changes in election law approved by the Department of Justice or the D.C. District Court. This preclearance requirement was an invaluable civil-rights protection. It stopped many discriminatory elections laws, including gerrymandered maps and photo-ID requirements, like those in Texas and South Carolina.
In June, however, the court ruled the while requiring preclearance was okay, the manner in which states and counties were selected was unconstitutional. While preclearance is theoretically still possible, Congress will have to come up with a new list of states for it to go back into effect. That isn’t likely to happen any time soon. In the meantime, states have been passing restrictive laws at a steady clip. Within hours of the Supreme Court decision, Texas announced its voter-ID law would go into effect immediately. Within a month, North Carolina passed one of the most sweeping sets of restrictions in memory, limiting registration drives, cutting back early voting and (of course) requiring photo ID to vote
But voting-rights activists still have other ways to fight back. In 2014, we’ll see a number of cases brought under an array of laws and provisions that can also be used to protect the right to vote. “This is a period of real ferment, with the potential maybe to fully realize our already-existing protections for the right to vote,” says Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, which has litigated a number of voting-rights cases. The outcomes of these cases will have an enormous impact on how the 2014 elections are governed and will help determine how the courts read the laws in the future. Here are some of the key voter protections still left in place.
Full Article: The Year in Preview: Post-Preclearance Voter Protection.