Time is running out for Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court last year struck down major parts of the voting law, and a bipartisan fix has stalled in Congress. The justices ruled that the formula used to designate which parts of the country must face heightened federal voting clearances was outdated and unconstitutional. New legislation, introduced earlier this year, seeks to update the procedures. Advocates believe the bill will pass both chambers of Congress if it is brought up to a vote, but that looks unlikely. In the House, conservative Republicans, especially those from Southern states that are singled out for the extra scrutiny, are skeptical of the measure Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) hammered out with House and Senate Democrats. If the bill were signed into law soon, it would be in effect for this November’s elections. Some Democrats are unhappy with compromises struck to win GOP support related to voter identification. Others on the left are concerned with the scope of the bill. Previously, nine states with histories of voter discrimination were required to get federal approval before they changed their election procedures. Under the new plan, only four states would be forced to seek such approval. Still, most Democrats would back the bill if it comes up for a vote. A number of senior Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are on board.
The House legislation has 22 co-sponsors, including Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.).
The big question is whether House GOP leadership is willing to bring the bill to a floor vote if a large number of Republicans plan to defect.
“The process is similar to immigration,” a Republican House leadership aide told The Hill. “There’s no real discussion on scheduling floor time at this point … we’re working with members to address concerns.”
In a major concession to House Republicans, Democrats agreed to add exemptions for the state voter identification laws the Justice Department has been zealously fighting, a move that frustrated some civil rights groups, including the NAACP. However, Sensenbrenner told The Hill late last year he was working closely with the DOJ on his measure. Sensenbrenner told The Hill late last year he was working closely with DOJ on his measure. While the department has said the law is constitutional, the Obama administration hasn’t thrown its support behind the bill. Republicans say the DOJ’s silence could actually help the bill’s prospects because some conservatives would oppose anything Holder supported.
Full Article: Clock ticking on fix to Voting Rights Act | TheHill.