In Newport News, Gov. Northam Ceremonially Signs Voting Rights Act of Virginia
Historic New Law Makes Virginia the 1st Southern State with a Voting Rights Act
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Today, Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, which was passed earlier this year by Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price (D-Newport News). The law makes Virginia the first state in the South to enact a Voting Rights Act.
Del. Price carried the Voting Rights Act of Virginia in the House (HB1890), and Sen. McClellan carried the Senate version (SB 1395). The bill is fully in effect as of September 1.
The Voting Rights Act of Virginia, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, protects voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. It requires 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. Those provisions went into effect on July 1, 2021. The bill’s section about prescribing voting and election materials in languages other than English went into effect on September 1, 2021.
“While other states pass new legislation to restrict voting rights, Virginia is now a national leader in protecting the right to vote with one of the strongest laws in the country,” Sen. McClellan said. “In his final essay, Congressman John Lewis reminded us that democracy is not a state, but an act that requires each generation to do its part. Generations of my family faced voter suppression tactics, from literacy tests for my great grandfather, to poll taxes for my grandfather and father. I’m very proud to have worked with Del. Price and voting rights advocates across the Commonwealth to pass this historic legislation and protect Virginians’ voting rights for generations to come.”
“This historic bill protects fundamental freedoms that are now under attack all across the nation,” said Delegate Price. “In many ways the transatlantic slave trade began in Hampton Roads, and this community has been the center of so many important civil rights battles. It was fitting, then, that we came together today in Newport News for the Governor’s bill signing. Because the federal government refused to act, Virginia stepped up, and I’m honored to have worked so closely with Sen. McClellan, New Virginia Majority and others to safeguard access to the ballot, especially for Black and Brown communities. But even as we celebrate today, we must remain committed to fighting voter suppression in all its forms.”
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 attack on voting rights across America is a reminder that we are not immune to voter suppression efforts, but with the Voting Rights Act of Virginia we have put significant protections in place to make sure that all Virginians can participate in free and fair elections,” said Tram Nguyen, Co-Executive Director of New Virginia Majority. “When voters start to cast their ballots on September 17th, they can do so knowing that they are protected from discrimination and intimidation.”