In Shelby v. Holder, issued in June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965 in response to persistent and purposeful discrimination through literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats, and violence. For millions of racial, ethnic, and language minority citizens, the law ended discriminatory practices and removed barriers to political participation. As voter suppression efforts continue to evolve, the need for protections persists. In the 2016 elections, the first in decades without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, 33 states implemented laws that could lead to voter suppression.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 1419/H.R. 2978) is a direct response to the Shelby decision. It provides a modern-day formula that requires states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes in their election laws.