BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  July 1, 2015


                  ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS AND REDISTRICTING


                           Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Chair


          AJR 13  
          (Ridley-Thomas) - As Introduced April 7, 2015


          SUBJECT:  The Voting Rights Act of 1965.


          SUMMARY:  Recognizes August 6, 2015, as the 50th anniversary of  
          the signing of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) and  
          urges the Congress and President of the United States (U.S.) to  
          continue to secure citizens' rights to vote and remedy any  
          racial discrimination in voting.  Specifically, this resolution:  
           


          1)Recognizes August 6, 2015, as the 50th Anniversary of the  
            signing of the VRA, and recognizes the significant progress  
            made by the VRA to protect every citizen's right to vote.

          2)Honors and remembers those who struggled and died for this  
            freedom.

          3)Urges the Congress and President of the U.S. to continue to  
            secure citizens' rights to vote and remedy any racial  
            discrimination in voting.

          4)Makes the following findings and declarations:

             a)   Signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon  
               B. Johnson, the VRA is a landmark piece of federal  








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               legislation in the U.S.;

             b)   One hundred and forty-five years ago, in 1870, Congress  
               ratified the 15th Amendment, which declared that the right  
               to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of  
               race, color, or previous condition of servitude;

             c)   By 1910, violence and intimidation resulted in nearly  
               all black citizens being disenfranchised and removed from  
               the voter rolls in the former Confederate States,  
               undermining the promise of equal protection under the law;

             d)   Native American, Latino, and Asian American/Pacific  
               Islander communities experienced similar attempts to  
               disenfranchise citizens in their communities throughout the  
               U.S.;

             e)   Between 1870 and 1965, voters faced "first-generation  
               barriers," such as poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of  
               "good character," disqualification for "crimes of moral  
               turpitude," and other tactics intended to keep African  
               Americans from the polls on election day; 

             f)   During the 1920s, African Americans in Selma, Alabama  
               formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL).  During the  
               1960s in partnership with organizers from the Student  
               Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the DCVL held  
               registration drives and classes to help African Americans  
               in Dallas County pass the literacy tests required to  
               register to vote.  On March 7, 1965, the first march from  
               Selma to Montgomery took place.  The march, nicknamed  
               "Bloody Sunday" for the horrific attack on unarmed marchers  
               by armed police, was broadcast nationwide and led to a  
               national outcry for the passage of the VRA;

             g)   Often regarded as one of the most effective civil rights  
               laws, the VRA was passed with the intent to ban  
               discriminatory voting policies at all levels of government;









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             h)   The VRA is credited for the enfranchisement of millions  
               of minority voters as well as the diversification of the  
               electorate and legislative bodies throughout all levels of  
               government;

             i)   Before Section 203 of the VRA was added in 1975,  
               language minorities were disenfranchised from the electoral  
               process.  Section 203 required certain jurisdictions to  
               provide registration or voting notices, forms,  
               instructions, assistance, or other materials and  
               information regarding the electoral process in the language  
               of the applicable minority group;

             j)   In June of 2013, the Supreme Court struck down key  
               sections of the VRA that were designed to prevent  
               discriminatory voting policies that can disenfranchise  
               minority voters; 

             aa)  Despite 50 years of progress, racial minorities continue  
               to face voting barriers in jurisdictions with a history of  
               discrimination;

             bb)  To build a stronger and more cohesive state and nation,  
               we must continue to help advance the cause of voter  
               equality and equal access to the political process for all  
               people in order to protect the rights of every American;  
               and, 

             cc)  We must continue to educate the next generation about  
               the importance of civic engagement in our communities now.

          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Provides, pursuant to the 15th Amendment to the U.S.  
            Constitution, that the right of citizens of the U.S. to vote  
            shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any state on  
            account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.   
            Gives Congress the power to enforce this provision by  








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            appropriate legislation.

          2)Prohibits, pursuant to Section 2 of the VRA, voting practices  
            or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color,  
            or membership in specified language minority groups.

          3)Prohibits, pursuant to Section 5 of the VRA, any change with  
            respect to voting from being enforced in specified covered  
            jurisdictions (and political subunits within those covered  
            jurisdictions) unless and until the jurisdiction first obtains  
            a determination by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or the  
            U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the  
            proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to  
            vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language  
            minority group.
          


          FISCAL EFFECT:  This resolution is keyed non-fiscal by the  
          Legislative Counsel.
          


          COMMENTS:  


          1)Purpose of the Resolution:  According to the author: 

               Fifty years ago, civil rights activists from all over  
               Alabama faced an angry mob of state and local lawmen at the  
               foot of the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama. Over  
               600 peaceful marchers led by Reverend Hosea Williams of the  
               Southern Christian Leadership Conference and John Lewis of  
               the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, suffered  
               horrific attacks from the lawmen to demonstrate their  
               demand for equal protection under the law guaranteeing all  
               minorities the right to vote. In this resolution, I  
               recognize the "Bloody Sunday" march for the important role  
               the demonstration played in sparking a national outcry  








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               leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. 



               Often regarded as one of the most effective civil rights  
               laws, the Voting Rights Act was passed with the intent to  
               ban discriminatory voting policies at all levels of  
               government. African American, Latino, Native American, and  
               Asian American and Pacific Islander communities all  
               experienced similar attempts to disenfranchise citizens in  
               their communities throughout the United States. During this  
               time, voters faced, "first-generation barriers," such as  
               poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of "good character,"  
               disqualification for "crimes of moral turpitude", and other  
               tactics intended to keep minorities from the polls on  
               Election Day.



               This resolution recognizes the significant progress made by  
               the legislation to protect every citizen's right to vote  
               and further honors and remembers those who struggled and  
               died for this freedom. To build a stronger and more  
               cohesive state and nation, we must continue to help advance  
               the cause of voter equality and equal access to the  
               political process for all people and to educate the next  
               generation on the importance of civic engagement in our  
               communities.


          2)Voting Rights Act of 1965:  The 15th Amendment to the U.S.   
            Constitution provides, in part, that "[t]he right of citizens  
            of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged  
            by the United States or by any state on account of race,  
            color, or previous condition of servitude."  Additionally, the  
            15th Amendment authorizes Congress to enact legislation to  
            enforce its provisions.  The 15th Amendment was ratified in  
            February 1870.









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          In 1965, Congress determined that state officials were failing  
            to comply with the provisions of the 15th Amendment.   
            Congressional hearings found that litigation to eliminate  
            discriminatory election practices was largely ineffective,  
            because states and local jurisdictions would institute new  
            discriminatory practices to replace any such practices that  
            were struck down in court.  As a result, Congress passed and  
            President Johnson signed the VRA.  The VRA, among other  
            provisions, prohibits any "voting qualification or  
            prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure"  
            from being imposed by any "State or political subdivision in a  
            manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right  
            of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race  
            or color."

          Section 5 of the VRA requires certain covered jurisdictions to  
            receive approval for any changes to law and practices  
            affecting voting from the U.S. DOJ or the U.S. District Court  
            for the District of Columbia to ensure that the changes do not  
            have the purpose or effect of "denying or abridging the right  
            to vote on account of race or color."  The requirement to  
            obtain approval under Section 5 is commonly referred to as a  
            "preclearance" requirement.

          In addition, in 1975 Congress adopted the language minority  
            provisions of Sections 4(f)(4) and 203 of the VRA.  Sections  
            4(f)(4) and 203 of the VRA require certain jurisdictions with  
            significant populations of voting age citizens who belong to a  
            language minority community to provide voting materials in a  
            language other than English.   These determinations are based  
            on data from the most recent Census.  Specifically, Sections  
            203 and 4(f)(4) require that when a covered state or political  
            subdivision "[p]rovides registration or voting notices, forms,  
            instructions, assistance, or other materials or information  
            relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall  
            provide them in the language of the applicable minority group  
            as well as in the English language."

          3)Constitutionality of Section 5 and Shelby County v. Holder:   








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            While much of the VRA is permanent, certain special provisions  
            of the VRA are temporary, including Section 5.  When the VRA  
            was enacted, Section 5 was scheduled to expire in five years.   
            Subsequently, Congress extended those provisions for another  
            five years in 1970, an additional seven years in 1975, and an  
            additional 25 years in 1982, and again for an additional 25  
            years in 2006.  As a result, Section 5 currently is scheduled  
            to expire in 2031.  

          In April 2010, Shelby County in Alabama filed suit in the U.S.  
            District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the  
            constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA, and of the coverage  
            formulas contained in Section 4(b) of the VRA.  Because the  
            State of Alabama was covered under the preclearance  
            requirements of Section 5, Shelby County was also covered as a  
            political subdivision of Alabama.  In the lawsuit, Shelby  
            County contended that Congress exceeded its authority under  
            the 15th Amendment and thus violated the 10th Amendment and  
            Article IV of the U.S. Constitution when it voted to  
            reauthorize Section 5 without changing or updating the  
            formulas that determined which jurisdictions were covered  
            under Section 5.  The District Court rejected Shelby County's  
            arguments, and upheld the constitutionality of the Section 5  
            reauthorization and the coverage formulas contained in Section  
            4 (b).  On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District  
            of Columbia Circuit affirmed the ruling of the District Court,  
            and Shelby County subsequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme  
            Court.  

          On June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelby County v.  
            Holder, held that the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the  
            VRA is unconstitutional and can no longer be used as a basis  
            for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance under Section 5  
            of the VRA.  The Court stated that although the formula was  
            rational and necessary at the time of its enactment, it is no  
            longer responsive to current conditions.  The Court, however,  
            did not strike down Section 5, which contains the preclearance  
            conditions.  Without Section 4(b), however, no jurisdiction  
            will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress  








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            enacts a new coverage formula.  

          The effect of the Shelby County decision is that the  
            jurisdictions identified by the coverage formula in Section  
            4(b) no longer need to seek preclearance from the Attorney  
            General or the U.S. District Court for the District of  
            Columbia before implementing new voting changes, unless they  
            are covered by a separate court order entered under Section  
            3(c) of the VRA.  

          All or specific portions of the following states were required  
            to have their voting changes precleared before the U.S.  
            Supreme Court decision in Shelby County: Alabama, Alaska,  
            Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi,  
            New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South  
            Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.  Also included were the  
            California counties of Kings, Monterey, and Yuba.  Merced  
            County previously was subject to the preclearance requirement,  
            but it successfully bailed out from Section 5 coverage in  
            2012.

            According to the U.S. DOJ, the ruling in Shelby County does  
            not affect Section 3(c) of the VRA.   Jurisdictions covered by  
            a preclearance requirement pursuant to court orders under  
            Section 3(c) remain subject to the terms of those court  
            orders.  Additionally, the Supreme Court's decision states  
            that Section 2 of the VRA, which prohibits discrimination in  
            voting based on race or language minority status, and which  
            applies on a permanent nationwide basis, is unaffected by the  
            decision. Likewise, other provisions of the VRA that prohibit  
            discrimination in voting remain in full force and effect, as  
            do other federal laws that protect voting rights, including  
            the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the  
            National Voter Registration Act, and the Help America Vote  
            Act.


          4)Related Resolutions:  HR 10 (Jones-Sawyer, et al.) of 2015,  
            commemorates March 7, 2015 in honor of the Foot Soldiers who  








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            participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or the  
            final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March during March of  
            1965, which served as a catalyst for the VRA. HR 10 was  
            adopted on the Assembly floor on March 12, 2015.   

          5)Previous Resolutions: AJR 15 (Alejo), Resolution Chapter 60,  
            Statutes of 2013, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the  
            constitutionality of Section 5 of the VRA.



            SJR 14 (Yee), Resolution Chapter 133, Statutes of 2013, urged  
            the Congress and the President of the U.S. to enact amendments  
            to the VRA that would restore Section 4 of the VRA with a new  
            coverage formula and update the entire VRA in order to address  
            ongoing violations of voting rights in the states.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles


          Future of California Elections




          Opposition


          None on file.








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          Analysis Prepared by:Nichole Becker / E. & R. / (916) 319-2094