Voting act being discussed

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2014

By Alexandra Hedrick

Picayune Item


Last week, a bill was introduced to the United States legislature that could have Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Texas once again seeking approval from the Justice Department before making any changes to the election process in those states.

The bill, which is called the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, says states with five voting-rights violations in the last 15 years could be subject to approval from the Justice Department. Local governments would also fall under federal scrutiny if they had three or more voting rights violations within 15 years or had one violation along with extremely low minority turnout during that time.

Under the bill, states and local government that had implemented rules that had been found to disenfranchise votes would also have to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department.

The new bill comes after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in June to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ordered states with a history of racial discrimination get approval from the Justice Department before making changes to the voting practices or procedures.

Pamela Weaver, communications director for the Secretary of State, said the secretary of state had not read the legislation yet and that it wouldn’t stop issuing voter identification cards.

The new bill doesn’t regard the issue of state-required photo identification to register to vote as a voting rights violation.

Mississippi started issuing voter identification cards to qualified individuals earlier this month. Pearl River County residents can apply for their Voter ID cards at the Circuit Clerk’s office in Poplarville.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act was authored by U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. and John Conyers, D-Mich. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota were all required to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before making changes to the voting process.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)