The landmark John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday. The law, named after the late civil rights activist, is meant to prevent local officials from enacting rules that could suppress a person’s right to vote due to their race.
“At a time when the very foundation of our democracy is under threat, New York is leading the nation with new laws protecting the fundamental right to vote,” Hochul said in statement.
The Associated Press reports that this bill makes New York one of the first states to reinstate a version of the “preclearance” process that was abolished by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.
Under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, states and counties with a history of suppressing Black voters had to seek approval from the Justice Department before changing voting rules. The court ended the practice in 2013, stating that federal oversight was no longer required.
However, that resulted in several states enacting new voting rules in recent years. Now, The John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Act will require local governments or school districts in New York with a history of discrimination to seek approval from state officials before passing certain voting policies.
“No state in the nation has stood up with the courage and the conviction and the power that we have by protecting these important rights,” said Hochul.
The law will also provide more language assistance to voters whose first language is not English and legal tools to combat discriminatory voting requirements. While state Democrats applauded the effort, they say that more legislation like it is needed nationwide.