Today, the Virginia House of Delegates passed 55-45 the Senate version of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia (SB1395) to protect Virginia voters from suppression, discrimination, and intimidation. The bill now heads to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk for signing. The House version of the Voting Rights Act (HB 1890) is slated for a vote in the Senate later this week.
Del. Marcia Price is the chief patron of the House bill, and Sen. Jennifer McClellan is the chief patron of the Senate bill.
The bills, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, will make Virginia the first state in the South to pass a Voting Rights Act. The bills 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 bills also allow the Attorney General or affected individuals to initiate a civil action in court action 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.
“My great grandparents, grandparents and parents faced literacy tests and poll taxes, and many Virginians have fought and died to protect the right to vote for over 150 years,” said Sen. McClellan. “The Voting Rights Act of Virginia will comprehensively protect Virginia voters from discrimination, supression, and intimidation for generations to come. I am proud to see it advance.”
“As we are investigating the racial inequity that exists in our systems, we must acknowledge the impact that our history of voter suppression has had in our Commonwealth,” said Del. Price. “ In this unique moment The Virginia General Assembly has decided to say we will not allow this to continue. I am grateful for the courage to make the Voting Rights Act of Virginia law.”
“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.”