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Rep. Chu Statement on Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019

December 6, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (VRAA). The VRAA is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder that required Congress to create an updated coverage formula for determining if the Federal government can intervene in a state’s election laws. Since that Supreme Court decision, nearly two dozen states have implemented restrictive voter ID laws and created obstacles for people to vote. This bill addresses that by developing an updated process to determine which states and localities with a history of voting rights violations over the past 25 years must preclear election changes with the Department of Justice. This bill also increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes, and allows the Attorney General to request the presence of federal observers anywhere in the country where a serious threat to voter access and fair elections exist. The Voting Rights Advancement Act also ensures that decreasing the operating days or hours of a polling place during the early voting period is classified as a discriminatory practice, as does making changes to voter registration lists in jurisdictions with a racial or language minority group making up twenty percent or more of the population. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) voted for H.R. 4 and issued the following statement:

“Some of the worst injustices in American history – from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Jim Crow laws – were only possible because voter suppression laws kept minority communities from having a say in their government. Fortunately, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave us the power to fight back, rolling back obviously discriminatory laws and shepherding in a fairer democracy. And the impact was stark. By 1971, the number of African-Americans in Congress had more than doubled, including the addition of a Senator. This is what happens when the yoke of discrimination is lifted and more Americans are able to choose who represents them. But due to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, we are losing the progress we’ve made. States have made it more difficult to vote by passing onerous voter ID laws, closing polling places in poor communities, and purging voter rolls – all of which have weakened our democracy. This is particularly important for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who are the fastest growing racial population in the United States but continue to face barriers at the polls due to voter suppression laws. And so we are fighting back today with the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This law finally updates the VRA – which used to be one of the most bipartisan and popular laws – to restore the Department of Justice’s ability to block states with a history of voter suppression from creating another era where minorities are silenced.”