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By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor Restoring the Voting Rights Act/ to p. 6 February 7 - 20, 2014 Graphic: Mathew Highland The Local Publication You Actually Read I n the third and fourth weeks of January, two rather unexpected bipartisan proposals to improve elections and protect voting rights were announced. The contents of both exceeded expectations, even as they fell significantly short of fully protecting the right to vote in the eyes of voting rights advocates. Still, they could mark a turning point in a battle that has significantly rolled back voting rights over the past several years for the first time since the Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965. On Jan. 16, a bipartisan trio of Congress members introduced “The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014,” an attempt to restore most of the vital protections of the Voting Rights Act that a narrow 5-4 conservative Supreme Court majority struck down this past June. “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,” said Vermont’s Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. “The modernized VRA [Voting Rights Act] is constitutional and bipartisan,” added Wisconsin GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a former chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who presided over the most recent reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Back then, the House passed it 390-33 and the Senate passed it 98-0. It revived the “preclearance” process, requiring states with a history of discriminatory practices to have voting changes approved in advance (either by the Department of Justice or a federal court). But the number of states covered was slashed dramatically from nine full states and parts of six others down to four. Preclearance is vital, since it stops discriminatory laws and practices (such as redrawing district lines) before they have a chance to interfere with people’s right to vote. The bill is still 1

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