Last Friday, Democrats in the US House and Senate, including Georgia Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, filed the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. This legislation amends the Voting Rights Act and modernizes the formula that determines which states must submit changes to their voting laws for preclearance by the Department of Justice. The previous formula, contained in Section 4 of the voting rights act, was ruled unconstitutional in the 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision in 2013. Since that ruling, many states that were previously covered by preclearance have instituted more restrictive voting laws. Notably, North Carolina dramatically changed their voting rights law after the decision, instituting strict voter ID requirements, slashing early voting, and eliminating same-day voter registration.
The formula established by the Voting Rights Advancement Act would not just impact southern states – states and counties would be subject to preclearance if they met a certain threshold of voting rights violations in the past 25 years. At present this would cover 13 states: 10 former Confederate states (including Georgia) as well as Arizona, California, and New York. While the Voting Rights Act was renewed unanimously in the Senate and with only 33 “no” votes from House Republicans in 2006 (including GA GOP Reps. Nathan Deal, Phil Gingrey, John Linder, Charles Norwood, Tom Price, and Lynn Westmoreland) this year’s bill has only Democratic and independent cosponsors. Read more