08.06.15

Peters Cosponsors Voting Rights Legislation on 50th Anniversary of Historic Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced on the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 that he is cosponsoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand voting rights protections to prevent discrimination of voters.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and despite the Voting Rights Act being signed into law 50 years ago, voters across the country have continued to fight for access to the ballot box,” said Senator Peters. “But that hard-won progress is being eroded today as states pass laws and engage in practices that seek to suppress the vote. I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to continue the fight for these important voter protections and ensure that every American has the equal opportunity to exercise the constitutional right to cast their vote.”

Congress last reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006 with strong bipartisan support, but the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted the historic legislation by eliminating one of the most important protections in the law—the previous preclearance formula. As a result of the Supreme Court decision, states across the county passed voter suppression laws that disproportionately prevent minorities, the elderly and young people from casting a ballot.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act establishes a new nationwide preclearance formula that applies to all states, and examines repeated voting rights violations over a period of 25 years. This 25-year review period continuously rolls so that only states with a recent history of discrimination are required to submit changes to election laws for preclearance.

Preclearance would apply to states that have a history of violations within the review period. States with 15 violations at any level of jurisdiction, states with 10 violations including one statewide violation, or any political subdivision with three or more violations are subject to preclearance.

Additionally, states using known practices historically used to discriminate against voters would have to meet the preclearance requirement. Known discriminatory practices include consolidating or relocating polling locations, reducing access to multilingual voting materials, redistricting or changing a jurisdiction’s borders in areas that are racially, ethnically or linguistically diverse, and changing documents or other requirements to register or vote.

The state of Michigan would not be immediately subject to statewide preclearance under the new formula. Prior to the Shelby v. Holder decision, Clyde Township in Allegan County and Buena Vista Township in Saginaw County were subject to preclearance requirements.

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