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VOL. 43 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 6, 2019

House passes bill to restore key parts of Voting Rights Act

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House has approved a bill that would restore key sections of the Voting Rights Act that once required officials in all or parts of 15 states to receive federal approval before making changes to the voting process.

The bill would amend the 1965 law to impose new obligations on states and local jurisdictions, essentially reversing a 2013 Supreme Court decision that tossed out a "pre-clearance" provision that determined which jurisdictions needed federal oversight of elections.

The bill was approved, 228—187, on Friday, and now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is unlikely to move forward.

Supporters said the measure would help prevent voter suppression in the South and other areas by developing a process to require states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations to pre-clear election changes with the Justice Department.

Strict voter registration requirements, polling place confusion and other obstacles faced by Georgia voters last year show why federal oversight of elections is still needed in places with a history of discrimination, supporters said.

"No right is more precious to our citizenship than the right of all Americans to be able to vote," said Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., the bill's chief sponsor. "When Americans are not able to cast their ballots, their votes are silenced.''

Elected officials "should be alarmed if any American who wants to cast a ballot is unable to cast a ballot," she said.

The White House opposes the bill, calling it an example of federal overreach. The Democratic-backed measure would give the federal government "too much authority over an even greater number of voting practices and decisions made by states and local governments without justifying the current needs for such policies,'' the White House said in a statement.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that similar restrictions imposed by Congress on states and localities are unconstitutional, the White House said.

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