CAP: States Are Stepping Up To Protect Voting Rights In Absence Of Federal Action

By Center For American Progress

Photos: YouTube Screenshots

Washington, D.C. — As legislation on voting rights awaits action in Congress, a growing number of states are passing their own laws to prevent voter intimidation and election interference, making it easier for Americans to exercise their right to vote. A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress highlights voting rights laws recently approved in half a dozen states: California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. The brief also describes similar legislation proposed in several other states, including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

State voting rights acts (VRAs) can both help fill the holes left by the U.S. Supreme Court’s gutting of the federal Voting Rights Act and offer expanded protections not currently available under federal law. Even if federal legislation passes, state VRAs are important to provide state-specific protections and open an avenue for voters to protect their rights in state court.

“States must step up and protect the right to vote by passing laws with strong voter protections,” said Rebecca Mears, director of Democracy in the Structural Reform and Governance department at CAP and author of the brief. “These laws are critical for protecting voters from discriminatory policies and other hurdles that might discourage or prevent people from casting ballots.”

The brief points out that over the past decade, states have adopted at least 94 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote. Every year, state legislators continue to introduce hundreds more measures that would implement restrictive, discriminatory voting policies.

State VRAs are not merely copies of the federal Voting Rights Act. They can also offer enhanced protections, such as reducing the burden on communities of color to bring vote dilution claims. Moreover, they can implement preclearance programs and defend against radical legal theories that endanger voting protections.

Read the issue brief: “The Protection of Voting Rights Requires State Action” by Rebecca Mears

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The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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