Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014Legal Compliance Resource
April 30, 2014 — 1,555 views
The United States Supreme Court recently made a controversial ruling in the Shelby County vs Holder case. To counter or to soften the blow of this decision, a bipartisan bill was introduced, which was named the VRA Bill or the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The decision by the Supreme Court on the Shelby County vs Holder bill was controversial because a major chunk of the pre-clearance portion of the original VRA was removed.
History behind the VRA Bill
The Voting Rights Amendment Act was originally implemented to make voting practices fair by countering and preventing discriminatory behavior that worked against people of color and disenfranchised them and prevented them from voting. The VRA targeted states with the worst discriminatory behavior in the country. Under this act, such states had to get pre-approval or pre-clearance from the federal government for any changes that they were planning to implement in the voting processes in their states.
All this was provided in section 5 of the VRA, but in the Shelby County vs Holder case, the Supreme Court ruled that the section 5 provisions were unconstitutional. This means that the pre-clearance requirements were eliminated and states with discriminatory voting practices could make changes without federal pre-approval or pre-clearance.
Principal points in the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014
This act has a new section 5 on pre-clearance with a new coverage formula. The new section 5 pre-clearance coverage formula states that the entire state will be subject to pre-clearance if the state has committed five VRA violations in the last 15 years with one violation being committed by the state. Political subdivisions will be subject to pre-clearance if the political subdivision under the state has committed one VRA violation in the past 15 years.
The political subdivision of the state will be subject to pre-clearance if it has also committed one VRA violation in the last 15 years and has consistently shown an extremely low minority voter turnout. This pre-clearance formula is set to never expire and amendments can be made in the future to add new states and jurisdictions. However, the new section 5 pre-clearance coverage formula does not consider settlements and consent decrees that are usually not categorized as VRA violations. As a result, many states that have exhibited discriminatory voting practices such as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia are not covered.
The VRA Bill also requires all changes in voting processes to be publicly announced within 180 days of the election. This bill also makes it easier to freeze discriminatory voting changes and also makes it easier to bail in jurisdictions under pre-clearance coverage.