Gov. Hochul signs strongest voter protection law in country with John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act
New York now has the strongest voter protection law of any state in the country as Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act today.
It's one of several laws designed to protect voting rights by establishing a voting and elections database, making electronic election interference a misdemeanor crime and banning forms of voter suppression.
"There are so many fights to be had and one of them is protecting the right to vote because our democracy only works if everyone who is available can participate in it and that the rights of the voters are respected," said Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn).
Nationally, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act sought to restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006 but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill by a margin of 219–212 but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
The law is named after civil rights activist Rep. John R. Lewis, who served Georgia's 5th Congressional District from 1987 until his death in 2020. Lewis was a titan in the civil rights movement, having helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
"Instead of having to go to court or go to the board of elections after the actions have already been committed," said State Assembly Member Latrice Walker. "We have a preclearance provision, that any changes to our voting apparatus or processes have to be precleared by the New York State Attorney General."
The bill was signed at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, honoring Evers, also a civil rights activist.
Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) says voter suppression isn't just an issue in Southern states. She says it lost her a race in 2004 by less than 20 votes due to voter suppression of people in her Yonkers community.
Elected officials say that the law will go into effect in July of 2023.