The state legislature on Thursday passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the toughest and most comprehensive voting rights law to date. The bill now awaits Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.
The legislation tackles discrimination in voting rights with a comprehensive framework that includes legal tools to combat racial voter suppression and vote dilution that are stronger and clearer than federal or other law state laws; a preclearance program bringing back to New York the most effective civil rights law in US history by requiring authorities to avoid discrimination rather than voters to find and fight discrimination; expanded language assistance for voters with limited English proficiency; protections against voter intimidation, deception and obstruction; instructing the courts to interpret election law to ensure qualified voters can vote and make them count whenever possible; and the creation of a central public repository for electoral and demographic data to promote transparency and evidence-based best practices for elections.
At the federal level, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 was a bill to restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In particular, it would have reinstated the Voting Rights Act requirement that certain states must pre-clear the US Department of Justice certain changes to their voting laws with the federal government, but the bill never passed Congress.
Both pieces of legislation — federal and state — were named after John Lewis, the late Georgia Representative and suffrage activist.
“The right to vote is under attack across the country, and New York must protect this sacred constitutional right,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “As other states work to disenfranchise voters and dilute votes, my colleagues and I of the House Majority are committed to enacting the strongest right to vote protections. vote of the country.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Bronx State Senators Alessandra Biaggi, a Pelham progressive who is running for Congress, and Jamaal Bailey, a Democrat from Baychester.
#BREAKING: The New York State Assembly voted to pass New York’s John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. The bill will now go to Governor Hochul for signature.
This is a historic victory for the right to vote.https://t.co/WKrJ644pMp
— Legal Defense Fund (@NAACP_LDF) June 2, 2022
In the past, New Yorkers have faced voter suppression, voter intimidation, language assistance failures, inconvenient polling locations, and discrimination in federal, state, and local elections. .
In 2020, former State Assemblyman Michael Blake, who lost a congressional primary to Ritchie Torres, addressed voter suppression allegations in his Bronx district. There had been a polling place in Concourse Village East at 158th Street for 25 years that had the highest number of black voters in the district. But, according to Blake, the site was suddenly changed.
During that same election, voting was delayed one hour at MS 29, located at 758 Courtlandt Ave. At MS.301, 890 Cauldwell Ave., the line wrapped around the school and some people did not vote because there were an insufficient number of poll workers.
In 2020 there were incomplete or incorrect ballots, understaffed polling places, scanners out of order, mail-in ballots that didn’t arrive in the mail, and many other voting issues in New York City. In addition, in 2016, 200,000 brooklyn voters had their names removed from the electoral rolls.
Contact Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes