New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a law on Monday aimed at preventing local officials from enacting rules that might suppress people’s voting rights because of their race. Now, local governments or school districts with a record of discrimination in New York must gain approval from state officials in order to pass certain voting policies.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late civil rights activist who represented Georgia in the U.S. House, makes New York one of the first states to bring back a version of a process known as “preclearance” that was gutted by a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2013.
Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, states and counties with a record of suppressing the rights of Black voters once had to seek U.S. Justice Department approval before changing voting rules. The court’s ending of that practice, on the grounds that federal oversight was no longer needed, helped clear the way for multiple states to enact new rules around voting in recent years.
3. A beautiful moment from @zellnor4ny who championed the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, “Let me start by recognizing the woman who is the reason that I’m standing up here. My first vote ever, I took with my mom. So mommy, if you stand up, please.” pic.twitter.com/cTy0ErW04u
— Maya Contreras (@mayatcontreras) June 20, 2022
The new state law will also expand language assistance for voters who don’t use English as a first language and also provide legal tools to fight discriminatory voting provisions. “We’re going to change our election laws so we no longer hurt minority communities,” Gov. Hochul, a Democrat, said at the bill signing ceremony in Brooklyn.
NEW: I just signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law.
John Lewis wrote, “Democracy is not a state. It’s an act, and each generation must do its part.” Today, New York is acting — leading the nation with new laws protecting the fundamental right to vote. pic.twitter.com/uWgibkN5Mp
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) June 20, 2022
A similar effort in the U.S. Congress to revive parts of the Voting Rights Act failed to make it through the Senate, and state Democrats who back the New York legislation said laws like it are still needed all across the country.