The passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) has helped address voting discrimination and empower communities of color in the last five decades, but as a new Campaign Legal Center report highlights, every state should pass its own VRA to continue to allow communities of color to make strides forward today.
Under the federal VRA, communities of color whose votes are diluted can only prevail in a voting rights lawsuit if certain circumstances are present. The community must be able to show that it could make up a majority of a single member district, and it must show that white voters usually vote cohesively to prevent the election of the community of color’s preferred candidates.
In addition to these stringent requirements, VRA lawsuits are often costly and allow the local government with the discriminatory voting system to choose its own way to remedy the problem. This frequently prevents changes that would allow communities of color to gain equitable representation.
If states were to pass their own VRAs, they could reduce the cost of enforcing voting rights and make it possible for disenfranchised communities that are not segregated to also enforce their rights. They could clarify that government-proposed remedies do not get deference as they might in federal court. And they can empower state courts to impose a wider range of locally-tailored remedies that better enfranchise communities of color.