Democrats in the House and Senate recently unveiled the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (“VRAA”), the latest version in a series of bills intended to restore the coverage formula invalidated in Shelby County v. Holder
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Some aspects of the new VRAA mirror previous versions. The VRAA revises Section 3(c) to authorize “bail-in” based on a statutory violation, an important change that I’ve defended elsewhere. There are also pro-transparency provisions that will make it harder for States and localities to hide problematic voting changes in the run-up to an election. And the Senate version continues to create additional protections for Native Americans living on reservations.
In a significant development, the House and Senate versions of the VRAA now adopt the same coverage formula. As I noted previously, the coverage formulas found in prior versions of the VRAA contained disparate time horizons and different definitions and numbers of “voting rights violations” for triggering preclearance Although this newfound agreement is welcome news for many in the voting rights community, I continue to believe that a revised Section 3(c) can accomplish most of the work of a new coverage formula, without raising equal-sovereignty concerns or necessitating costly political compromises.
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