The state Legislature passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act Thursday, the strongest and most comprehensive state voting rights act to date. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
The legislation addresses voting rights discrimination through a comprehensive framework that includes legal tools to fight racial voter suppression and vote dilution that are stronger and clearer than federal law or other state laws; a preclearance program bringing the most effective civil rights law in U.S. history back to New York by putting the burden on authorities to avoid discrimination rather than on voters to find and fight discrimination; expanded language assistance to limited English proficient voters; protections against voter intimidation, deception and obstruction; an instruction to courts to interpret the Election Law to ensure that qualified voters can cast ballots and have them counted whenever possible; and the creation of a central public repository for election and demographic data to promote transparency and evidence-based best practices for election.
On the federal level, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 was proposed legislation to restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Particularly, it would have restored the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that certain states preclear with the U.S. Department of Justice certain changes to their voting laws with the federal government, but the bill never made it through Congress.