Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) recently announced she plans to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by introducing a resolution which calls on the House of Representatives to make restoring the preclearance provisions of the Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, a top priority.

Eleanor Holmes Norton2

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

In the wake of the Shelby decision, several states hastily introduced laws that require stricter forms of ID, restrict early voting, require proof of citizenship, reduce the number of polling stations, decrease assistance at polling places and other measures that hinder voters from accessing the ballot box.

Fifteen of those states were poised to implement those new voting restrictions in the General Election in November, Norton noted. However, courts recently struck down such measures in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio.

“In the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, many states moved quickly to erect new barriers to voting, particularly for people of color, the elderly, and low-income residents,” Norton said in a statement.  “However, with alacrity, federal appeals courts have struck down voter suppression laws in time for the next election even in states where the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance procedures would not have applied.  Citizens have also been able to get these late laws overturned in some states by using the tough standards that the legislature engaged in intentional discrimination.”

In the Shelby ruling, the justices struck down Section 4 of the VRA, the formula that determined which jurisdictions would have to obtain federal preclearance (under the VRA’s Section 5) before implementing proposed election changes.

In the resolution, which Norton plans to introduce when lawmakers return to Congress in September, the D.C. delegate runs through a list of voter suppression measures and provides statistics to show how minorities and other vulnerable communities are targeted by those laws.

The resolution reads:

“Whereas, many unjust voter laws that were passed or went into effect after the Shelby County decision threaten to affect a significant number of minority voters on election day, November 8, 2016; Resolved, that the House of Representatives –

  • Should prioritize the creation of a new preclearance formula, based on the Voting Rights Amendment Act, H.R. 3899 from the 113th Congress, and the Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 2876 from the 114th Congress;
  • Condemns the use of the above listed voter suppression laws and techniques by states and political subdivisions.”