[NOTE: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this petition.]
It’s been nearly three years since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision.
Restoring the Voting Rights Act would only require a simple fix from Congress, but Republicans have refused to allow any votes on either of the currently pending bills that would protect Americans from discriminatory voter suppression laws.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently told the Congressional Black Caucus that he supports the Voting Rights Amendment Act, a bill that would repair much of the damage done by the Supreme Court. But Speaker Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are hiding behind the objections of House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, who doesn’t think the Voting Rights Act should be restored at all.
Speaker Ryan’s excuse for refusing to allow a vote on the Voting Rights Amendment Act is that he supports “regular order,” in which bills pass through the normal committee process before moving to the House floor. But as Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McCarthy are well aware, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, whose committee has jurisdiction over voting rights legislation, strongly opposes restoring the Voting Rights Act, claiming it is not “necessary.”
In the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance formula specifying which states with a history of voter suppression required Department of Justice approval to change their voting laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The court’s majority opinion made clear that Congress simply needed to update the preclearance formula to restore the power of Section 5 to protect voting rights.
Within hours of the decision, several states in the South immediately announced that they would pursue discriminatory new voter ID laws that were clearly designed to make it harder for African-Americans and Latinos to vote. All told, 395 voting restrictions have been passed at the state and local levels in the past five years alone.
Since its original passage in 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized and strengthened by Congress five times with strong bipartisan support. In 2006, Congress reauthorized the bill for 25 years by a vote of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate. But if Congress doesn’t act to update the preclearance formula, 2016 will be the first presidential election in more than 50 years in which voters don’t have the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.
Thanks for fighting to fix the Voting Rights Act.