Time for a New Voting Rights Act?
Vote to see how others feel about this issue
by Countable | 11.13.18
What's the story?
- Gerrymandering continues to garner headlines, there are ongoing accusations that restrictive voting policies affected the 2018 midterms, and Florida and Georgia are still counting ballots a week after Election Day.
- Florida's recount inspired President Donald Trump to tweet - without evidence - that new ballots are showing up “out of nowhere” and that “many ballots are missing or forged.” A federal judge in the Sunshine State told both sides to “ramp down the rhetoric.”
- Regardless of the outcome of the outstanding elections, Democrats will take control of the House in January and one of the first items topping their legislative to-do list is removing obstacles to voting.
- Is it time for a new Voting Rights Act?
What’s in the current Voting Rights Act?
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 – signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson – aimed to enforce the 15th Amendment of the Constitution, which stated:
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
- Section 2 of the Act - which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment - applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on the literacy tests on a nationwide basis.
- The Act contained special enforcement provisions targeted at those areas of the country where Congress believed the potential for discrimination to be the greatest. Under Section 5, covered jurisdictions could not implement any change affecting voting until the Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the change did not have a discriminatory purpose and would not have a discriminatory effect.
- The Act authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. Shortly after, in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, the Supreme Court held Virginia's poll tax to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.
What was the effect of the Act?
“The law had an immediate impact. By the end of 1965, a quarter of a million new black voters had been registered, one-third by Federal examiners. By the end of 1966, only 4 out of the 13 southern states had fewer than 50 percent of African Americans registered to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was readopted and strengthened in 1970, 1975, and 1982,” explains Ourdocuments.gov.
How could a new act expand voting rights?
- “First, states can shift the burden of registration from voters onto the state to make it easy, if not automatic, to register rather than allowing the state to take advantage of every opportunity to knock off applicants and registrants,” Daniel Nichanian is a Senior Fellow at the Justice Collaborative, wrote in an op-ed on NBCNews.
- Return the voting rights of citizens who’ve been incarcerated. Florida, which has had some of the strictest laws restricting the formerly incarcerated from voting, passed a ballot initiative to do just that.
- Make Election Day a federal holiday so people have time to vote.
- The Louise Slaughter Weekend Voting Act would turn Election Day into Election Weekend by moving federal general elections to the Saturday & Sunday after the first Friday in November
- The Time Off to Vote Act would require that employees be provided with two hours of paid lead on a federal election day to vote.
What do you think?
Amidst allegations of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and recounts, is it time for Congress to draft a new Voting Rights Act? What would you like to see included? Take action above, then share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes / Creative Commons)
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