Congress Reveals Law To Strengthen 1965 Votings Rights Bill

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Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill to bolster Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act following a ruling by the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of voting restrictions in Arizona. Specifically, the justices upheld rules disqualifying provisional ballots that Arizona voters cast in precincts other than their own and banning most individuals other than the voter themselves from returning any given mail-in ballot. Neither of these provisions are connected to real-world evidence of threats to election integrity.

If enacted, the bill from Gallego and Jones would require courts handling certain voting rights cases to examine whether a “challenged standard, practice, or procedure imposes a disparate burden on members” of particular protected groups. If the presence of a “disparate burden” on certain voters is determined, then courts handling these cases would also be required to investigate whether that “disparate burden is in part caused by or related to social and historical conditions that produce or produced discrimination against members of the protected class.” Courts would thereby be forced to inquire as to the broader social context of a given election guideline, with less of an opportunity to ignore the real-world consequences of suppressive voting regulations.

Gallego commented as follows:

‘Democracy is under attack by state legislatures across the country, including in Arizona. The right of every American to have equal access to the ballot – regardless of their race or political orientation – is critical to a functioning democracy. The Supreme Court trampled on that right today by upholding two Arizona laws that make it harder to vote for Latino, Black, and Native American communities in particular. Our very democracy is at stake in this fight, and Congress must act. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Jones to protect voters of color from discrimination and help restore the foundation of our democracy.’

On a similar note, Jones shared the following, referencing the proposed legislation:

‘At a time when the voting rights of Black and brown Americans are under attack to a degree not seen since Jim Crow, protecting the sacred right to vote is more important than ever. The Inclusive Elections Act of 2021 would undo the Supreme Court’s destructive decision by outlawing discriminatory voter suppression laws like the ones the Court just upheld in Arizona.’

The Justice Department itself also reacted to the Supreme Court decision. Spokesman Anthony Coley said that the “department remains strongly committed to challenging discriminatory election laws and will continue to use every legal tool available to protect all qualified Americans seeking to participate in the electoral process.”