New Voting Rights Act backed by House majority
A majority of the House has now signed on to legislation that would restore the heart of the Voting Rights Act, the requirement that states and counties with a history of voter discrimination get federal permission before making any changes to their election rules or political maps.
Eleven more members agreed to co-sponsor the bill on Tuesday, bringing the roster of committed lawmakers to the magic number of 218. All of them are Democrats. The leadership has not yet signaled when the House will take up the bill.
Five years ago the Supreme Court effectively struck down the preclearance system, ruling it was unconstitutionally based on an outdated set of criteria. The House measure would institute a new set of rules for the Justice Department to use in determining which states need federal preclearance of election changes. Facing South, a media platform for the Institute of Southern Studies, summarizes the calculation used to determine which states would fall under the rules: those with 15 or more voting rights violations during the past 25 years, and those with 10 or more violations if at least one was committed by the state itself. Under that formula Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia would be subject to preclearance.
Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.
The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.
Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.
Having had remarkable success at signing people up to vote in Texas last year, an Austin group of activists is expanding its pilot program into a full-blown national effort to overcome the sometimes ignored first hurdle for people in the voting process — registration.
"There are millions of voters who are registered who don't get out to vote," said Christopher Jasinski, director of partnerships for Register2Vote. "But the unmeasured part of the pie is the actual number of unregistered voters."