ATLANTA — A new report this week from the New York Times lays out how the Supreme Court’s gutting of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act “helped pave the way for new voting restrictions” as Republicans have pushed over 400 anti-voter bills in 49 state legislatures.
In 2013, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act dealing with preclearance “was hollowed out by the Supreme Court,” allowing GOP-led state legislatures to enact draconian anti-voter laws that “would almost certainly have been halted, stalled or altered had Section 5 still been in use.” As a result, states across the country are now passing laws that previously that, according to one voting rights expert, “would have never been enacted in the first place if Section 5 were still there.”
This week the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore preclearance provisions to protect access to the ballot box for all Americans as Republicans continue trying to push anti-voter laws across the country.
Read more about how a lack of preclearance has led to a flood of voting rights restrictions:
NYT: How a Defunct Federal Provision Helped Pave the Way for New Voting Restrictions
By Nick Corasaniti
August 26, 2021
- Georgia toughened identification requirements for absentee voting. Arizona authorized removing voters from the rolls if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years. Florida and Georgia cut back sharply the use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots.
- All of these new voting restrictions would have been rejected or at least softened if a federal civil rights protection from the 1960s were still intact, experts in election law said.
- As Republican-led state legislatures have tightened voting rules after the 2020 election, new restrictions have been enacted or proposed in four states that are no longer required to seek approval before changing voting laws: Georgia, Arizona, Texas and Florida.
- Those new restrictions would almost certainly have been halted, stalled or altered had Section 5 still been in use, according to interviews with former federal prosecutors and a review by The New York Times of past civil rights actions by the Justice Department.
- “There’s nothing subtle about what they’re trying to do,” said Tom Perez, the former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “If Section 5 were still around, those laws would not see the light of day.”
- From January 1982 to July 2005, Justice Department lawyers filed 2,282 objections to 387,673 proposed voting changes under Section 5, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
- Mr. Perez, the head of the civil rights division from 2009 to 2013, recalled an Arizona bill that proposed barring third parties from dropping off absentee ballots on behalf of voters. The Navajo Nation protested that some of its communities were hours from the nearest mailbox, making the act of voting by mail an arduous one.
- That bill, Mr. Perez noted, was similar to a new Arizona ban on ballot collection upheld in a recent Supreme Court decision.
- “A lot of these provisions would have never been enacted in the first place if Section 5 were still there,” Mr. Greenbaum said. “Because these states know that if they couldn’t disprove retrogression, it would go down in flames.”