Posted by Maya Efrati, Drew Penrose on June 22, 2017
The U.S. has a difficult history with protecting the voting rights of its minority communities, and oftentimes the laws and facts on the ground have not matched the American ideals of equality and full participation. From 1965 to 2013, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act prevented many states and localities from enacting policies that would limit access to the ballot or to representation for people of color. Any change in election laws in a covered jurisdiction had to be precleared by the Department of Justice before it could be enacted. In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified this part of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder, declaring that Section 4, which establishes which states are covered and which are not, was unconstitutional.
Today, the Voting Rights Advancement Act was reintroduced in Congress. The bill, introduced by lead sponsors Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), would restore Section 5 of the VRA, establishing a new formula for determining which states would be covered. Since Shelby County, protecting minority voting rights has been an unending series of battles in court. That makes the VRAA a crucial step for protecting voting rights.
We need to fully restore the Voting Rights Act to prevent regressive changes from impacting the right to vote for people of color. At the same time, we must engage with the limitations of the system itself. On Monday, the Fair Representation Act will be introduced to Congress by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Vir.). That would replace the winner-take-all voting rule with a fair representation voting rule. The Fair Representation Act would work hand-in-hand with the VRAA, by helping to promote fair representation for people of color.
In order to ensure that every vote counts and all voices are heard, we must protect our democracy. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced in Congress today, can help move our nation to a better democracy.