A newly-signed New York law will tackle voter suppression, intimidation, and other tactics used to dismantle minority voting power. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act on Monday (June 20), named after the late Georgia congressman and civil rights activist.
"Today, we honor the work of the late Congressman John Lewis and activists like Medgar Evers as we make meaningful changes to our laws that enfranchise voters and ensure the voices of the people are heard in our democracy," Hochul says during a bill signing ceremony in Brooklyn. "Where the federal government fails to act, New York will continue to step up and lead the way."
The legislation prevents local officials from enacting rules aimed at suppressing voting rights on the basis of someone's racial, ethnic or language-based identity. The new law also brings back a process gutted from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through a 2013 Supreme Court decision: preclearance.
This means local governments and school districts with a history of "civil and voting rights violations" will need approval from state officials before implementing new election laws and measures.
Some state lawmakers and voting rights advocates have called the law necessary in the wake of states pulling back on voting rights and false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
“We believe that this is a way for state leaders to step up and protect votes at a time where Black and brown voters are facing the biggest assault on voters rights since Jims Crow,” Adam Lioz, a senior policy counsel for the Legal Defense Fund, says.