By: Teddy Grant
Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed on Wednesday a historic bill that would protect statewide voting and protect voters, the first state in the South to enact its version of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” Northam said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Sponsored by Delegate Marcia Price and State Senator Jennifer McClellan, the law blocks state and local policies from restricting or denying voting rights based on race, color or native languages, DCist reported.
“The Voting Rights Act of Virginia is a huge victory for our democracy,” said McClellan in the statement to DCist.
Northam signed the bill nearly eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court’s decision stripped the federal government of being able to examine proposed changes to voting in states and cities with a history of racial discrimination, according to NPR.
That decision allowed Republican-legislatures in many states across the South to enact stricter voting laws that made it harder for people to vote.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law last month that limited access to voting drop boxes, made it illegal to give food and water to people waiting in line to vote, shortened the runoff cycle from nine weeks to four weeks and introduced tougher voter ID requirements for absentee ballots.
Northam recently restored Virginians’ voting rights convicted of felonies once they’ve completed their prison sentences, BNC reported.
“The Voting Rights Act of Virginia shows just how far a state with roots from the darkest days of racism in this country can come and will be a model for the entire nation,” the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Marcia Johnson-Blanco told The Hill. “This legislation stands in stark contrast to the regressive bills that have been adopted and proposed in other states that will make it more difficult for people to vote.”