Lisa Murkowski becomes first non-Democrat to endorse updated Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Advancement Act has bipartisan support. Kinda.

Lisa Murkowski, who was re-elected to the Senate via write-in after losing the Republican primary for her seat in 2010, announced Wednesday evening that she will co-sponsor the otherwise exclusively Democratic effort to restore the Voting Rights Act.

The bill would update the list of states subject to preclearance requirements — in which states that make changes to laws that affect ballot access have to be submitted to the federal government for approval — and implement a formula for determining which states are added to and dropped from the list in the future. Notably, Alaska is the only state that was subject to preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that would not start out subject to preclearance requirements if the current proposal passes.

Despite this fact, Native Alaskans had been lobbying Murkowski aggressively to support the bill, as the state is not without problems relating to voting rights for its minority populations. And while the current bill doesn’t list Alaska as a state that starts out with the highest level of protection, it’s something. And that, of course, is better than the nothing that’s currently in place.

Recent iterations of the Voting Rights Act have been entirely non-controversial in the Senate, with the 2006 reauthorization passing 98-0. But that was before the Supreme Court struck down its preclearance requirements. While Congressional Republicans didn’t want to be flagged as racists if they torpedoed that part of the legislation, they know that they can now sit on their heels while effort after effort to restore the law stalls.

And as Ari Berman at The Nation notes, it isn’t exactly high on their priority list:

Lisa Murkowski, via Wikimedia Commons

Lisa Murkowski, via Wikimedia Commons

Murkowski’s announcement is a welcome sign for voting-rights advocates, who were dismayed that during the first GOP presidential debate on August 6, 2015—on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act—the topic of voting rights never came up from the moderators on Fox News or GOP presidential candidates. The 2016 election will be the first presidential election in 50 years where voters will not have the full protections of the VRA, which adds urgency for Congress to take action.

So while one (sorta) Republican does not final passage make, having Murkowski on board is a welcome sign. It’d be a sad state of affairs indeed if there wasn’t one member of the Republican caucus willing to cast a vote affirming that voting rights are a good thing that should be protected.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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8 Responses to “Lisa Murkowski becomes first non-Democrat to endorse updated Voting Rights Act”

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  2. proofreader says:

    Democrats need to take a page from Republicans and tout the bi-partisan support in every interview.

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  4. Tim Conway says:

    I see now if the white legislature does nothing on voting rights, it will come back to haunt them in 50 years, when whites are the minority and screaming about how they need their vote protected. You did nothing to protect the minority voters when you were the majority, so the minority majority owes nothing to protect whites voters rights later.

  5. Indigo says:

    An old-fashioned Republican in these Neo-Gilded Days. How curious.

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  7. rogerclegg says:

    No new legislation is needed. The Supreme Court struck down only one provision in the
    Voting Rights Act — which was indeed unconstitutional, and which was never a
    permanent part of the Act anyway — and there are plenty of other voting-rights
    laws available to ensure that the right to vote is not violated. What’s more,
    the bill that has been drafted is bad legislation. For example, it contains much that has
    nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision; and it itself violates the
    Constitution by prohibiting practices that are not actually racially
    discriminatory but only have racially disproportionate effects.

    It’s even more extreme that an earlier bill that was introduced and has gone nowhere. The new bill would not, for example, exempt voter ID, and it would cover more jurisdictions than the earlier bill — indeed, more jurisdictions than the original Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (although, interestingly, not Alaska — which had been covered before). So we
    are to believe that there are more racist jurisdictions in 2015 than there were
    in 1965 — comprising half the country’s population. It’s hard to believe
    that the bill’s sponsors expect the bill to be taken seriously. More
    likely it is a bone being tossed to the more extreme parts of their base, who
    thought the earlier bill — though bad in the extreme — was not bad enough.

  8. koonoruk says:

    its an election year for this 2 faced oil bought republican,, lets remember something such as this is to mollycoddle to the native population in alaska to keep her seat,, pure and simple,, this is a gimme to her state only to keep her oilie ass in office.

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