Voting Rights Act of Virginia Heads to Governor’s Desk

Bill Will Protect Virginia Voters from Suppression, Discrimination, and Intimidation

Today, the Voting Rights Act of Virginia (HB1890) achieved final passage in the Virginia Senate and is now on its way to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk. The bill will make Virginia the first state in the South to pass a Voting Rights Act. 

The Senate voted 21-18 in favor of Delegate Marcia “Cia” Price’s  (D-Newport News) Voting Rights Act of Virginia. Today’s vote comes on the heels of Wednesday’s passage of the Senate version of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia (SB1395), led by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond).

The bill, modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, will protect voters in the Commonwealth from suppression, disrimination, and intimidation. It would 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 Co. v. Holder decision in 2013 that gutted Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

“This is a huge victory for voting rights in Virginia,” said Sen. McClellan. “Today, we are sending a clear message that Virginia will protect the right to vote, and we will not tolerate any voter suppression, discrimination or intimidation. Thank you to Del. Price and all of the advocates who made Virginia the first state in the South to pass a Voting Rights Act. I’m proud that Virginia has become a national leader on protecting voting rights.”

“At a time when voter suppression is running rampant and Republican legislators are trying to keep their grip on power by making it harder to vote, states need to step up to protect voting rights for all of us,” Delegate Price said. “My goal in getting this bill passed was to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, housing status, (dis)ability status, economic circumstances, political party, or language spoken has access to the ballot box. Our democracy is strongest when everyone can participate, and the Voting Rights Act of Virginia brings us one step closer to making that a reality. Other states can follow Virginia’s lead so that no eligible voter who wants to cast their vote is prevented from doing so.”

“We only have to look at the voter suppression efforts happening in state legislatures across America to see that our democracy is under attack,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority.  “The passage of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia sends a message to the country that we can strengthen and protect our democracy to ensure that all Americans, no matter who we are, where we live, where we come from, have an equal say in who represents us and in the decisions that impact our lives.”