Conservatives in Georgia and elsewhere have long fought portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, claiming that the historic legislation was no longer necessary. In 2013, the right wing got its wish when the Supreme Court struck down a vital component of the VRA. That ruling allowed several states, including Georgia, to alter voting laws without preclearance from the Justice Department.
Gov. Nathan Deal was thrilled, saying at the time that federal oversight over elections in Georgia “has obviously been an issue that has outlived its initial purpose.”
Gov. Deal went on to argue that the VRA has been a burden to Georgia, enforcing unnecessary regulations on local elections practices.
What Gov. Deal has refused to acknowledge is where the true burden lies. Minorities in our state have long been subject to outrageous barriers to free and open elections — everything from oppressive voter ID laws to drawing legislative maps that create unfair conservative majorities.
Now Congressman Lewis has offered a plan to fix this imbalance. Congressman Lewis has teamed up with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will restore Section V of the Voting Rights Act and require Georgia to once again seek federal approval for elections changes.
In acknowledgement of a perennial criticism of the VRA, Congressman Lewis’ legislation will expand oversight from the initial nine states covered in 1965 to thirteen, including North Carolina and Florida. This expansion will not only return badly-needed regulation to Georgia, but will also institute a system of accountability in states where rogue politicians have been disenfranchising America’s most vulnerable citizens for decades.
We applaud Congressman Lewis’ efforts, and call on all of Georgia’s Congressional delegation to support this crucial legislation.