New York Passes Landmark Voting Rights Legislation

Former Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s governor signed a law Monday intended to prevent local officials from enacting rules that might suppress people’s voting rights because of their race.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late civil rights activist who represented Georgia in the U.S. House, makes New York one of the first states to bring back a version of a process known as “preclearance” that was gutted by a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2013.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, states and counites with a record of suppressing the rights of Black voters once had to seek U.S. Justice Department approval before changing voting rules.

The court’s ending of that practice, on the grounds that federal oversight was no longer needed, helped clear the way for multiple states to enact new rules around voting in recent years.

Now, local governments or school districts with a record of discrimination in New York must gain approval from state officials in order to pass certain voting policies.

“We’re going to change our election laws so we no longer hurt minority communities,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Brooklyn.

“I’m so proud to be here to sign this landmark legislation. No state in the nation has stood up with the courage and conviction and the power we have by protecting these important rights,” she said.

The new state law will also expand language assistance for voters who don’t use English as a first language, and also provide legal tools to fight discriminatory voting provisions.

An effort in the U.S. Congress to revive parts of the Voting Rights Act failed to make it through the Senate.

Democrats who back the New York legislation said laws like it are still needed.

The parts of New York required to get preclearance before changing voting laws will be determined by state officials based on a formula and list of conditions in the legislation.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!

Hamodia Logo