It’s Time to Secure Key Civil Rights Legislation
Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) has become an original cosponsor of H.R. 3239, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017. This bipartisan civil rights legislation updates the federal preclearance provisions from the original Voting Rights Act, signed into law on August 6, 1965, which were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v Holder. Original federal preclearance provisions required review by a federal court before an offending state or local municipality could change election laws.
“As a proud member of the Party of Lincoln from the Land of Lincoln,” said Rep. Hultgren, “I take great pride—and responsibility—in promoting a strong republic where all women and men are equal and a part of the system that chooses our leaders and promotes a more just society. Federal preclearance provisions are vital for protecting against potential infringements on our society’s foundational right to vote through local laws targeting minority communities.
“I believe the Supreme Court was right in calling for an update to a law that has largely been on autopilot. Federalism works, and our Constitution made clear that election laws are set at the state and local level. However, the federal government should have extraordinary measures in place to delay changes in election law from being made by recent lawbreakers until a review by a federal government. This bill is a step toward protecting our country’s civil rights legacy for all generations.”
The bill replaces the sections in the Voting Rights Act which were largely unchanged since the original bill was introduced in 1965. The bill recognizes the importance of preclearance, but applies it evenly across all 50 states. Under the new law, any state or jurisdiction that demonstrates a consistent pattern of discriminatory voting practices would be subject to preclearance. When the discrimination stops, the jurisdiction would automatically be freed from the requirement. The updated formula would require review by a federal court before recent violators could change election laws.
Other provisions in the bill include:
- Allowing our federal courts to bail-in the worst actors for preclearance. The current law permits states or jurisdictions to be bailed in for intentional violations, but the new legislation amends the Act to allow states or jurisdictions to be bailed in for results-based violations.
- Greater transparency in elections so that voters are made aware of changes. The additional sunlight will deter discrimination from occurring and protect voters from discrimination.
- Allowing for preliminary relief to be obtained more readily, given that voting rights cannot often be vindicated after an election is already over.
- Modest provisions that continue to permit states to enact reasonable photo identification laws.
Rep. Hultgren supported a previous version, H.R. 885, in the 114th Congress.