Proposed Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015

No new legislation has been passed to amend the Voting Rights Act since the Shelby County decision. The Shelby County majority opinion suggested that Congress could pass an updated formula to replace Section 4(b). The Court said, “Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions.”

Congressional Action

In response to the Shelby County v. Holder decision, some members of Congress proposed a new formula in the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015. The League of Women Voters U.S. supports this bill.

The proposed Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 has bipartisan sponsorship in the U.S. House, including John Lewis (D-GA and a leader of the “Bloody Sunday” march), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Steve Chabot (R-OH) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Senate sponsors include Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others.

Provisions of the Voting Rights Advancement Act

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 proposes a “rolling trigger” formula to replace Section 4(b). Each year, the U.S. Attorney General would look back 15 years. Any jurisdiction would be covered and subject to preclearance under Section 5 if it is:

  • a state with five voting rights violations in 15 years
  • a local government with three voting rights violations in 15 years
  • a local government with one violation plus very low minority turnout

If a jurisdiction were subject to preclearance, all of its election changes would need to be reviewed and pre-cleared for 10 years, dating from its most recent voting rights violation. This formula would stay on top of “current conditions” because it would apply only to events in the last 15 years.

However, this proposed amendment to the Voting Rights Act has not been passed by Congress, so it has not become law.