by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
House Democrats are poised to pass a sweeping election bill that would reestablish provisions of the Voting Rights Act the Supreme Court has already struck down in an effort to advance voting reforms that have repeatedly stalled on Capitol Hill.
On Tuesday, Alabama Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell introduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, or H.R. 4, against the backdrop of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where famous protest marches occurred in March 1965. …
… The bill takes particular aim at a Supreme Court decision from 2013, Shelby County v. Holder, which stripped away the preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act — a ruling that voting rights advocates continue to criticize today.
Preclearance required states with histories of voter discrimination to submit any election rule changes to the federal government for review.
The Shelby decision struck down the provision of the Voting Rights Act that implemented a formula for deciding which states would be subject to the preclearance requirements.
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said H.R 4 would do more than revive the requirements that applied to a handful of states before the 2013 decision.
“This new provision actually expands the previous preclearance requirement by not only bringing that back so that certain states will have to get everything reviewed, but it puts in a new provision called practice-based preclearance,” von Spakovsky said. “What that means is, that will affect every single county in every single state across the country.”
The bill specifies several practices that could trigger preclearance requirements, even in states that don’t meet the historical threshold under the Voting Rights Act sections that H.R. 4 is attempting to revive, according to a summary of the legislation released on Tuesday.
Implementing voter ID laws or “reducing multilingual voting materials” are among the changes that would subject a state to review by the federal government, according to the summary.