The NAACP on Thursday expressed appreciation for lawmakers' effort to update voting rights laws, but raised "serious concerns" with provisions of the bill.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the legislation during a press conference earlier Thursday. The bill, which aims to update a key component of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, has bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
The bill, which would repair a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court last summer, would keep communities informed of local voting changes, strengthen federal courts' hand in cases of discriminatory voting changes and tighten the leash on areas with recent voting rights violations. But the bill was designed to garner support from both sides of the aisle, and some of its compromises concern the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization.
The NAACP said in a statement:
The NAACP appreciates that the U.S. Congress has made a bipartisan effort to update the Voting Rights Act, however we have serious concerns about the ability of some provisions in this bill to protect ALL voters from discrimination at the polls ... From the exceptions for voter ID laws to decreased preclearance coverage to increased reliance on costly litigation, there are essential revisions and amendments to this bill that must take place to ensure ALL voters have fair and equitable access to the ballot box.
The civil rights organization was not alone in its sentiments. The Service Employees International Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Advancement Project and others released statements celebrating the legislation as a "good first step," but saying they still had concerns.
"The bill includes commonsense updates to a law that has protected the fundamental right to vote for American citizens for nearly 50 years," said Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel at ACLU. "While it does not fix everything that was lost in [the Supreme Court case], we are pleased to see a bipartisan bill that contains a set of protections that are flexible, forward-looking, and written to capture recent discrimination and stop discriminatory changes before elections take place. "