Unfettered access to vote is one of the most basic and cherished freedoms in America. Ensuring free and fair access to the voting booth for all Americans is a vital component of our democracy. We need voting rights reform to guarantee full access to the ballot box.
The bill would restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed 50 years ago and has been weakened by federal court decisions over the years.
In 2013, B’nai B’rith spoke out against the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder, which eliminated the requirement that nine states and numerous counties must seek federal approval before changing their election laws. At the time, we expressed deep concern that the ruling could pave the way for state and local efforts to suppress voting by minorities. We noted then that it was time for Congress to act again to extend the requirement that these states and localities get pre-approval to change their voting laws.
The updated voting rights measure would: Modernize the preclearance formula to cover states with a pattern of discrimination and allow federal courts to order preclearance remedies in the event of voting rights violations; Ensure that last-minute voting changes won’t adversely affect voters; Protect voters from the types of voting changes most likely to discriminate against people of color and those who don’t use English as their first language; Expand the federal observer program; Improve voting rights protections for Native peoples.
The introduction of this measure demonstrates an important will to reform voting protections. Federal oversight of voting rules is imperative. We urge Congress to remedy the loss of protections by enacting this new legislation that addresses discriminatory voting conditions.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Voting Rights Act. There is no better or more important way to honor the advances won by the civil rights movement half a century ago than to pass legislation in our own time that ensures the hard-fought gains they achieved will not continue to erode. It is time once again to eradicate voting discrimination.
B’nai B’rith urges both parties and both chambers to work together to pass a measure restoring voting protections for all Americans.