A bipartisan group of lawmakers took the first step Thursday to patch a gaping hole in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eviscerated a key part of the law that allowed for federal oversight of states with a history of ballot box discrimination.
The bill, known as the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, has been sponsored in the House by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Chris Coons, D-Del. Their proposal includes several important provisions:
a trigger to bring states under federal pre-approval for election changes if those states have five or more voting rights violations over the past 15 years.
a way to allow courts to require federal oversight for states even if the Justice Department or private litigants can’t demonstrate intentional discrimination at the ballot box.
a requirement for states to provide broad public notice of voting changes such as redistricting and moving of polling places so the public gets early warning of potential problems.
a statement that makes clear states can continue to pass photo ID laws that are “reasonable.”