RICHMOND, Va. – Today, Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Delegate Marcia Price’s (D-Newport News) Voting Rights Act of Virginia was approved by Governor Ralph Northam. Virginia is now slated to be the first state in the South to enact a voting rights act.
“The Voting Rights Act of Virginia is a huge victory for our democracy,” Sen. McClellan said. “While other states are threatening voting rights, Virginia took a major step today to protect the right to vote. I am proud that our Commonwealth is leading the way, becoming the first state in the South to pass a Voting Rights Act. This law will help to safeguard every Virginian’s access to the ballot for generations to come.”
“Virginia is standing strong against a coordinated and intentional effort to restrict voting rights across the nation,” said Del. Price. “These targeted restrictions are designed to disenfranchise people of color, working Americans, and non-native English speakers. With this bill, our Commonwealth is taking the opposite approach and we are making a bold statement against voter suppression. We are upholding the dignity, voice, and vote of all Virginians.”
The bill, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, will protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. It would require that 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 Governor made minor technical amendments to the bills, which will be finalized during the Veto Session on April 7th.
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 Co. v. Holder decision in 2013 that gutted Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.