A Historic Opportunity to Improve Voting Rights

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda launched “Latinos United for a Modern Voting Rights Act” — an unprecedented coalition campaign comprised of Latino leaders and organizations from across the political spectrum to ensure a fair and bipartisan process in modernizing the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

The VRA prohibited discriminatory voting practices that have been responsible for the denial of the voting rights of racial, ethnic, and language minorities in the U.S. This law has been responsible for much of the progress made to outlaw discriminatory voting practices in America over the last 50 years.

Congress is moving to update the Voting Rights Act in a way that better reflects a modern society, rather than the one that existed in 1965. A bipartisan contingent of lawmakers introduced HR 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and an identical bill was introduced in the United States Senate. Republicans and Democrats alike are coming together to recognize the importance of protecting the right to vote.

The legislation comes as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2013 to strike down the federal protection that required certain localities nationwide to undergo federal approval before changing elections procedures, also known as “pre-clearance.” The pre-clearance process and obligation in section 5 of the VRA of 1965 (VRA) for nearly half a century, ably served to timely secure and ensure the voting rights of all.

The legislation would again ensure that potential violations of voting rights in jurisdictions with egregious histories of discrimination may be resolved quickly and efficiently through a pre-clearance review process. It remains that Americans of Latino descent continue to be vulnerable to discrimination due to the elimination of this important Section of the VRA.