Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that legislation he is cosponsoring, The Voting Rights Reconstruction Act of 2015, has been introduced. The legislation seeks to fix the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v Holder, which left key portions of the landmark Voting Rights Act (VRA)A of 1968 in tatters. Thursday will mark the 2nd anniversary of the misguided decision. This new legislation would restore the VRA’s protection and target other practices, like Voter ID, that seek the limit the ability of Americans to exercise their right to vote. For years, attacks on voting rights have intensified as some states have sought to limit early voting, enact Voter ID laws and limit ‘Souls to the Polls.’
“This legislation will reverse the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Shelby County v Holder and restore these critical voting protections,” Senator Casey said. “The right to vote has been called the most precious of our rights, the ‘primary right by which all other rights are protected.’ However, over the past few years, legislation and court decisions at both state and federal levels have been slowly chipping away at this right. It’s time for Congress to act.”
Voting Rights Reconstruction Act of 2015 – Key Provisions
Expansion of Section 3
Currently, the Voting Rights Act allows courts to use a “bail-in” process to require preclearance of voting changes if they find that a jurisdiction has intentionally discriminated in violation of the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. This legislation would allow courts to use that "bail-in” process for changes that are discriminatory in effect as well as intentionally discriminatory, and would allow “bail-ins” for violations of the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting rights laws in addition to Constitutional violations.
Section 4 Preclearance Formula for States and Subdivisions
Creates a new formula for determining which states are subject to preclearance under Section 5. Once covered, State or political subdivision will continue to be covered for 10 years starting on January 1 of the year of the most recent voting rights violations in the State or subdivision, unless the State or subdivision obtains a “bail-out” under Section 4(a).
Statewide Coverage Criteria
An entire state can be covered if:
(1) 15 or more voting violations occurred in the State in the most recent 25-year period; or
(2) 10 or more voting violations in the State in the most recent 25-year period with at least 1 of the violations being committed by the State itself (as opposed to a political subdivision)
Political Subdivision Coverage Criteria
A political subdivision within a state can be covered if it commits 3 or more voting violations in the most recent 25-year period.
Section 5 Preclearance Formula for Covered Practices
Creates a separate coverage formula requiring jurisdictions nationwide to obtain preclearance for a limited universe of voting changes that have historically been found to be discriminatory.
Apply only where there is a significant effect on a minority population:
- Changes to methods of election that add seats elected at-large or convert single-member district seats to at-large or multi-member seats
- Changes to jurisdiction boundaries
- Changes to the boundaries of election districts
- Changes that reduce, consolidate or relocate voting locations
Apply regardless or population diversity:
- Changes in documentation or qualifications required to vote
- Changes to multi-language voting materials
Creates a new section of the VRA focused on transparency, requiring States and political subdivisions to give notice and disclosure for
- late voting changes (less than 180 days before a federal election) involving federal elections
- polling resources involving federal elections, and
- demographic and electoral data for voting districts for federal, state and local elections
Clarifies that the Attorney General has authority to request Federal Observers in covered jurisdictions and authorizes the Attorney General to assign observers for additional jurisdictions where necessary to enforce language minority provisions
Provides additional protections around voting on Tribal lands, including more accessible voting locations and voting materials in Native languages.