Historic New Law Makes Virginia the 1st Southern State with a Voting Rights Act
RICHMOND — Today, the General Assembly gave final passage to Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price’s (D-Newport News) Voting Rights Act of Virginia, incorporating Governor Ralph Northam’s technical amendments. The bill now heads back to Gov. Northam’s desk for final signature. Once signed, the legislation will make Virginia the first state in the South to enact a Voting Rights Act.
The bill, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, will protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, disrimination, and intimidation. It will require changes to local voting laws and regulations be advertised in advance for public comment and evaluated for their impact on Black, Indigenous and communities of color.
The bill also allows the Attorney General or affected individuals to initiate civil action in court if the protections are violated. It will help fill the hole left by the Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013 that gutted Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
“This bill makes Virginia a national leader in protecting the right to vote, with one of the strongest laws in the country,” Sen. McClellan said. “As legislatures across the country pass new legislation to suppress voting rights, the Voting Rights Act of Virginia makes our Commonwealth–the birthplace of American democracy– a bedrock for voter protection and access to the ballot box. I’m very proud to have worked with Del. Price and voting rights advocates across the Commonwealth to pass this historic legislation.”
“Today, the Virginia General Assembly made history as the Voting Rights Act of Virginia was made official,” Del. Price said. “We have demonstrated our commitment to transparency, accessibility, equity, inclusion, and education in our elections processes. With this historic legislation, we are repudiating efforts of voter suppression and taking a crucial stand to protect and expand our democracy.”
This legislation was a collaborative effort of following organizations: Virginia New Majority, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and The Advancement Project.
“The Voting Rights Act of Virginia will ensure that all citizens, no matter who we are or where we come from, will be able to cast a ballot and have our voices heard, free from discrimination or intimidation,” said Tram Nguyen, Co-Executive Director of New Virginia Majority. “The right to vote, to choose our leaders, and to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives is the cornerstone of our democracy.”