WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-V.t.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) proposed a bipartisan compromise on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, S. 4. The four Senators reached a compromise ahead of tomorrow’s vote to advance S. 4. An announcement tweet explained that “the bipartisan compromise bill was crafted to encourage the support of both parties, and stays true to the same bipartisan blueprint followed by Congress in each of the 5 times it has previously enacted legislation to Restore the [Voting Rights Act (VRA)].”
The compromise “which builds on the version introduced earlier in October – reflects months of bipartisan negotiations and seeks to garner broader support in the Senate.” In light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer, S. 4 contains provisions that restrengthen Section 2 of the VRA. The compromise language strikes photo ID laws as factors that courts are required to consider when evaluating Section 2 claims while permitting the courts to consider a handful of factors that S. 4 prohibited and any additional relevant factor beyond what is specifically expressed. Additionally, the compromise language eliminates “line-warming” bans as a practice-based change that requires preclearance coverage under Section 4 of the VRA, given that “the discriminatory impact of changes to these laws is not as robust as other covered practices.” Finally, the compromise language shortens the “safe harbor period,” which is the time before an election when plaintiffs are allowed to sue a state before a court might consider it too close to an election. The substitute amendment includes a handful of other changes beyond the changes explicitly designed to garner bipartisan support. Even with Murkowski’s support, it appears unlikely that the compromise bill will gain the support of nine more Republicans needed to overcome the filibuster.