U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is co-sponsoring H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014; legislation that would restore some of the measures meant to prevent discrimination against voters that were gutted in the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court ruling one year ago today. The bill would create a new nationwide formula to determine which states would be subject to preclearance from the federal government when seeking to change voting practices. Preclearance is meant to prevent undue discrimination or intimidation against certain blocs of voters with the intent of making it more difficult, if not impossible, to vote.
"The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights we have as citizens of the United States. It's how we the people express our opinion on everything ranging from how our local communities are organized, to who we want to serve in elected office at the highest levels of government," said Michaud. "I do not believe that it is a right anyone should ever have arbitrarily taken away from them, and that is why we must take action to ensure some of the provisions in this important legislation are once again codified into law. If we allow a system to remain in place where voting rights can be denied for politically motivated purposes, I believe we are setting a very dangerous precedent."
Under H.R. 3899, a number of factors would trigger whether a state would be subject to preclearance:
If a state is found to have committed five voting violations in the most recent 15 year period, and at least one of the violations is by the state itself;
And if a political subdivision within a state has committed three violations in the most recent 15 years -- or one violation in the current period -- and has experienced "persistent and extremely low minority turnout."
The bill identifies the following actions as proof of voting violations:
A final judgment from a court that the state or subdivision within the state violated the 14th or 15th Amendments to the Constitution;
A final judgment of a court that a state or political subdivision violated federal voting laws;
A failure or denial of preclearance by a court under the Voting Rights Act;
And a failure or denial of preclearance by the Attorney General under the Voting Rights Act that is not overturned by a court.
Rep. Michaud has a track record of standing up for voting rights and expanding access at the polls. He is an original co-sponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act, which would take steps to improve and modernize voter registration; and he is a co-sponsor of the SIMPLE Voting Act, which would set a minimum number of early voting days in each state for federal elections, and ensure precincts have adequate resources so that voters do not have to wait longer than one hour to vote. The last reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act was in 2006. It passed with bipartisan support, including that of Rep. Michaud.