September 25, 2021

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House Passes a Voting Rights Bill, but a G.O.P. Blockade Awaits in the Senate – The New York Times

2 min read

Lawmakers drafted the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to reverse both rulings and spent months collecting a careful legislative record in anticipation that any changes that became law would be scrutinized by the justices.

At its core is a new formula for determining which states and local entities should be subject to pre-clearance by looking at voting rights violations over the last 25 years. At least one analysis suggests eight states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas — and a handful of counties would be subject to such oversight.

But it would also require most jurisdictions in the country — not just those with a history of discrimination — to get federal approval before adopting certain sensitive electoral changes, like stringent new voter identification requirements, removing polling places, completing the lines of electoral districts or putting in place new policies to cull voter rolls en masse.

Other provisions tucked in the bill could have a meaningful impact on voting disputes. For example, the legislation would lower the bar for plaintiffs suing to stop elections changes under the Voting Rights Act to win preliminary injunctions to keep them from taking effect until a court can review them. Currently, elections changes that are later struck down can often take effect for months or even years because the lawsuits take so long to resolve.

Elsewhere, the legislation appears to take direct aim at many of the Republican state officials who have used unsubstantiated and often vague concerns about voter fraud — particularly the false claims promulgated by former President Donald J. Trump — to justify locking in new restrictions on mail-in ballots and the use of drop boxes, or to cut back on early voting. Merely invoking concerns of “voter fraud” is not enough, the bill says, implying that states would have to provide evidence to back up their claims.

Senators are still negotiating their own version of the legislation and have yet to settle on a date to reintroduce it or call a vote. Unlike the For the People Act, it is likely to attract some bipartisan support — but not nearly enough to pass it.

Only one Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has been willing to attach her name to similar bills in recent years. A spokeswoman for Ms. Murkowski declined to comment on the House version of the bill, but the senator told The New York Times earlier this year that she did not believe she could find nine other Republicans to join her in breaking the filibuster to pass the bill.

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