ALBANY, New York – The governor of New York signed legislation Monday aimed at preventing local officials from enacting rules that could stifle people’s voting rights based on their race.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, named for the late civil rights leader who represented Georgia in the US House of Representatives, makes New York one of the first states to bring back a version of a process known as “pre-approval” gutted by a landmark decision of the Supreme Court In 2013.
Under the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act, states and countries that had a record of suppressing the rights of black voters were previously required to obtain approval from the US Department of Justice before changing voting rules.
The court’s termination of this practice, on the grounds that federal oversight was no longer necessary, has helped several states enact new rules for voting in recent years.
Now, any local government or school district with a record of discrimination in New York must obtain approval from state officials to enact specific voting policies.
“We will change our election laws so that we no longer harm minority communities,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Brooklyn.
“I’m so proud to be here to sign this landmark law. No state in the nation has stood up with the courage and conviction and power that we have in protecting these important rights,” she said.
The new state law will also expand language support for voters who do not use English as their first language and also provide legal tools to combat discriminatory voting regulations.
An attempt in the US Congress to revive parts of the Voting Rights Act didn’t make it through the Senate.
Democrats who support the New York legislation said such legislation is still needed.
“Just last week, several important races across the country were won by people who deny the validity of elections and will work to limit voter access,” Sen. Zellnor Myrie said.
Adam Lioz, a senior policy adviser to the Legal Defense Fund, said the organization has been working to push this legislation forward for years.
“We believe this is a way for leaders to amplify and protect the vote at a time when black and brown voters are facing the greatest assault on voter rights since Jim Crow,” Lioz said.
The parts of New York that must receive pre-approval before changing the electoral laws are determined by state officials based on a formula and a list of conditions in the legislature.
Maysoon Khan is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics. Keep following Maysoon Khan Twitter.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/20/new-york-passes-landmark-voting-rights-legislation/ New York passes landmark voting rights law