The legislation, introduced Thursday and supported by civil rights groups, would restore the provision on how states are covered under the act's requirement for federal pre-clearance to protect against discriminatory voting measures, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a co-sponsor.
"Through months of negotiation and compromise, Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Conyers and I have agreed on a bipartisan and bicameral proposal to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were weakened by the Supreme Court's decision last summer," Leahy said. "Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color."
Sensenbrenner said the legislation is constitutional and bipartisan.
"It includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter ID laws," he said. "Therefore, it prevents racial discrimination and gives states the ability to address voter fraud."
Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee -- and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who co-sponsored the original Voting Rights Act in 1965 -- said, "[It] is with much pride that my colleagues and I are introducing a strengthened and renewed Voting Rights Act to reaffirm our constitutional commitment to the cornerstone of our democracy: the right to vote."
Among other things, the bill would:
-- Include a coverage provision based on current conditions and establish a rolling nationwide trigger that covers states or jurisdictions with persistent records of voting rights violations in the last 15 years.
-- Require greater transparency in elections so voters are made aware of changes, which would deter discrimination from occurring and protect voters from discrimination.
-- Allow for preliminary relief to be obtained more readily.
-- Permit states to enact some photo identification laws.
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