Sensenbrenner Reintroduces Bill to Modernize Voting Rights
"The right for each legal voter to cast a ballot is sacred, and we must restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act before the next election."
Washington, D.C.—Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) reintroduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2019. This legislation restores and modernizes a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Rep Sensenbrenner: “The right for each legal voter to cast a ballot is sacred, and we must restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act before the next election. I am proud to have twice led bipartisan efforts to reauthorize one of the most significant civil rights laws in American history and will continue to fight to ensure that every eligible individual who wishes to cast a ballot can do so.”
First codified in 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) protected citizens by requiring states with historical patterns of discriminatory voting practices accountable. States that failed to meet requirements covered under Section 4 of the VRA had to preclear any changes to an election with the Department of Justice. A state could seek relief from the preclearance requirement after demonstrating to the D.C. Circuit Court that it had not committed any voter discrimination infractions within a ten-year period.
Congressman Sensenbrenner led negotiations in the 1982 reauthorization which passed the House 389-24 and the Senate 85-8 and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A ceremonial signing pen hangs in Congressmen Sensenbrenner’s office.
As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Sensenbrenner led another VRA reauthorization in 2006. The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, And Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act passed the House by 390-33 and the Senate by 98-0. President George w. Bush signed it into law on July 26, 2006.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the standard for deciding whether a state met the threshold to be covered by preclearance requirements was unconstitutional because it was based on outdated information regarding voter discrimination. The decision effectively rendered Section 5 of the VRA unenforceable.
Less than a month after the Court made its ruling, Congressman Sensenbrenner testified alongside civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis (GA-05) before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of fixing and reinstating the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act. Together, they introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act the following March to restore the formula in a way that addresses the Court’s concerns. Congressman Sensenbrenner has reintroduced similar legislation in every Congress since.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2019 would apply equally to every state and only covers states with five documented violations within the last 15 years.