On 54th Anniversary Of Bloody Sunday In Selma, Senator Schumer Announces Voting Rights And Democracy Reform Priorities Needed To Ensure Every American Can Access The Ballot Box

March 7, 2019

In The Wake Of Voter Suppression Efforts In The 2018 Midterm Elections— Senator Schumer Is Making It A Priority To Provide A Vital Fix To The Voting Rights Act Following The Shelby County V. Holder Supreme Court Decision, Implement Nationwide Automatic Voter Registration, And Grant D.C. Statehood In Order To Give Residents A Voice In Democracy 

The Supreme Court’s 2013 Decision In Shelby County V. Holder Gutted The Voting Rights Act of 1965’s Critical Preclearance Provisions That Had Previously Allowed The Federal Government To Prevent States With A History Of Discrimination From Changing Their Voting Rules Without PreapprovalSince Then, States Across The Country Have Passed Laws That Have Disproportionately Limited Access To The Ballot For People Of Color, Young People, And The Poor

Schumer: Denying Access To The Ballot To Any Eligible American Citizen Cuts Against The Heart Of Our Democracy 

Washington, D.C.— On the 54th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and following reports of voter suppression in the 2018 elections that disproportionally targeted communities of color, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today announced his voting rights and democracy reform priorities in the new Congress and beyond: the restoration of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), nationwide automatic voter registration, and D.C. Statehood. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965’s critical preclearance provisions that allowed the federal government to prevent states with a history of discrimination from changing their voting rules without preapproval, states across the country have passed laws that impede voters and limit access to the ballot box for communities across the country. These policies have disproportionally impacted people of color, young people, and the poor. Leader Schumer has a record of criticizing the roll-back of critical voting rights and has regularly advocated for federal safeguards for elections, including co-sponsoring the Martin Luther King Jr. Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2002, which provided states with grants to study election infrastructure and acquire technology to prevent discriminatory election practices.

“Denying access to the ballot to any eligible American citizen cuts against the heart of our democracy— the right to vote,” said Leader Schumer.  “Last year, we saw examples of voter suppression disproportionally targeting communities of color in the midterm elections, and thanks to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, we have fewer tools to fight back. That’s why in addition to building support for H.R.1 and its Senate companion, which will be introduced by Senators Udall (D-NM), Merkley (D-OR), and others, we are going to make a major push to restore the most important civil rights bill Congress ever passed and to push additional measures to ensure that everyone has a chance to cast their vote and have their voice heard. We need to fix the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Shelby County Decision, enact nationwide automatic voter registration, and give a voice to D.C. residents without delay. ”

Senator Schumer’s voting rights priorities include:

  • A Vital Fix to the Shelby County v. Holder Decision: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation in our nation’s history. For more than 50 years, the law stood as a powerful force to prevent the type of racial discrimination in voting that marred our nation’s history prior to the bill’s passage. In 2013, the Supreme Court in its Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the law’s critical preclearance provisions that had previously allowed the federal government to prevent states with a history of discrimination from implementing changes to their voting rules without preapproval. In the years since, states across the country have rushed to pass laws that have disproportionately limited access to the ballot for people of color, young people, and the poor. Senator Schumer is a co-sponsor of the Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.561)— introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)— which would restore the VRA’s foundational protections and ensure that America does not backslide further into the darkest days of our democracy.  
  • Nationwide Automatic Voter Registration: Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, with more states expected to pass the reform soon. Senator Schumer will co-sponsor the Automatic Voter Registration Act—soon-to-be re-introduced by Senators Leahy, Klobuchar, and Durbin—which would require every state to automatically register people eligible to vote when they interact with certain state and federal agencies unless those people decline.  This would ensure that as many as 50 million eligible citizens who are currently not on the voter rolls are able to sign up.
  • D.C Statehood: D.C. residents have all the obligations of citizenship, including paying federal taxes and serving in every war since the Revolutionary War, but are denied voting rights in Congress and self-government.  Senator Schumer is a co-sponsor of the Washington D.C. Admission Act (S.631) – introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)— which would eliminate this double disenfranchisement—it would give D.C. full voting rights and full home rule.

###