WASHINGTON – Lawmakers announced Thursday bipartisan legislation that would restore key protections of the
The bill would also establish new criteria to determine whether states need to seek federal approval for proposed changes to voting rules.
The legislation is a response to the high court's ruling in June that Southern states had been unfairly singled out by the long-standing formula used to determine which states must seek federal "pre-clearance" before changing their voting laws.
The proposed legislation would establish a new trigger. Any state that is found to have committed five voting violations over a 15-year period would be subject to federal scrutiny of any new voting laws for a period of 10 years. It would also allow states to create "reasonable" photo identification laws.
Four states would be subject to the law immediately upon enactment: Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The landmark Voting Rights Act had been repeatedly renewed by
The legislation's sponsors, including
"I think we have hit the gold mine here," Sensenbrenner, a former
Lawmakers timed their announcement just before Congress breaks for a weeklong recess period and
"It is amazing to me, it is unbelievable, it is almost unreal that we were able to come together so quickly to craft a compromise that both Democrats and
Sensenbrenner said he had had early discussions with House Majority Leader
Leahy predicted easier passage of the measure in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Key civil rights groups also signaled their support.
"Although not perfect, this bill is an important first step," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the