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July 31, 2014

Posts in "Voting Rights"

June 25, 2014

Voting Rights Rally Calls on Congress to Act

leahy 215 062514 1 445x287 Voting Rights Rally Calls on Congress to Act

Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., presides over the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act on Wednesday. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One year after the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, activists gathered outside the House to implore Congress to act.

Several House Democrats joined roughly 100 activists on a hot Wednesday afternoon to voice support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act. The rally followed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill’s Senate counterpart.

“This court made a destructive and bad decision one year ago today,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she gestured across First Street towards the Supreme Court.

“Within our power we have a bipartisan bill that doesn’t do everything,” said Pelosi, “But it does correct the decision of the court. We’re calling upon the Speaker of the House to give us our vote on this bill.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, told the crowd that the majority of the House would support the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., in January.

The bill addresses the high court’s 5-4 ruling that essentially struck down the core of the VRA pre-clearance requirement. Under the provision, several states, counties and cities were required to have any changes to election laws pre-approved by a federal court. The Supreme Court ruled that the method to determine which states were subject to pre-clearance was outdated and unconstitutional, putting the onus on Congress to modernize the formula.

Amending the VRA gained a surprising ally in Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican voiced his support of congressional action to address the court’s decision shortly after the ruling.

But Cantor’s shocking loss earlier this month dampened prospects that a VRA rewrite will come to the floor of the House.

“I think Eric Cantor would have stepped forward in the best traditions of Judaism and tried to give people rights and opportunities,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told CQ Roll Call after he spoke at the rally. “I think his defeat makes it less likely that Republicans will have that voice within their caucus.”

However, Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn, said Cantor’s defeat does not affect the likelihood of the VRA bill coming to the floor because Republicans generally oppose the legislation.

“I think he was slow-walking this thing the whole time,” said Clyburn, “and having him where he is helps the country focus the attention that it wasn’t Eric Cantor, it is the Republican philosophy” that kept this bill from advancing.

Throughout the rally, Democratic House members and activists focused their attention on Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, calling on him to hold a hearing on the bill.

“I think he is the stick in the spokes at this point in time,” Clyburn said of Goodlatte. The South Carolina Democrat said that he had not spoken with the chairman, but Goodlatte’s fellow Virginian, Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott, has been talking with the chairman about the VRA issue.

 

March 12, 2014

Can Cantor Deliver on Voting Rights Act?

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(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After two trips to the Deep South alongside civil rights icon and Georgia Democrat John Lewis, the pressure is on Eric Cantor to deliver on the Voting Rights Act.

The majority leader has made a major, personal investment in connecting to the civil rights movement — something that ultimately could prove important for a GOP that regularly polls in the single digits among African-Americans and poorly among other minorities.

But translating participation in the Faith and Politics Institute’s annual pilgrimage into legislative text that can win support from the bulk of the Republican Conference isn’t an easy task.

And so far, Cantor hasn’t laid out a clear path for a bill nine months after declaring his support for a congressional response to the Supreme Court decision striking down the VRA’s core enforcement mechanisms.

Democrats have signaled that they trust Cantor, a Virginia Republican, on this issue, and that the extent to which he is able to help advance a VRA fix depends largely on his ability to mobilize his flock, many of whom are hostile to the idea.

“A lot of what is happening on the other side of the aisle wouldn’t be happening if it were up to Cantor,” said the House’s No. 3 Democrat, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, adding that many far-right Republicans “relish in gumming up the works.”
Full story

January 16, 2014

Champions of Voting Rights Act Compromise Are Cautiously Optimistic

An eclectic group of House and Senate lawmakers expressed cautious optimism Thursday afternoon that their proposed “modernization” of the historic Voting Rights Act would become law this year. Full story

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Voting Rights Act Fix (Updated)

conyers011614 445x309 Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Voting Rights Act Fix (Updated)

Conyers, above, Sensenbrenner and Leahy brokered a legislative fix to the Voting Rights Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 3:16 p.m. | Several months after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a legislative fix.

Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., brokered the legislation, aimed at restoring federal “preclearance” of voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination.

The Supreme Court struck down the current formula in a landmark ruling last summer and challenged Congress to revise it for the 21st century through legislation.

“Our sole focus throughout this entire process was to ensure that no American would be denied his or her constitutional right to vote because of discrimination on the basis of race or color,” Leahy said in a statement.

Sensenbrenner said the bill “includes strong, nationwide anti-discrimination protections and continues to permit states to enact reasonable voter ID laws. Therefore, it prevents racial discrimination and gives states the ability to address voter fraud.” Full story

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