The Voting Rights Act remains an effective tool for preventing discrimination against minority voters even after the Supreme Court threw out a key section last month, a key House Republican said Thursday. Democrats countered that the remaining provisions aren’t enough and said the one the court overturned needs to be replaced. That dispute played out before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, the second congressional panel this week to discuss the Supreme Court’s June 25 decision in a historic case out of Shelby County, Ala. The court’s 5-4 decision ended the 48-year-old requirement that certain states with a history of discrimination at the polls — including Alabama and South Carolina — obtain “pre-clearance” from federal officials before making any changes to their election procedures.
The court said the formula Congress used to determine which states were subject to the extra scrutiny was outdated and unconstitutional. But it left open the possibility Congress could write a new formula and reinstate the pre-clearance process. The two hearings so far have produced no bipartisan consensus on how — or whether — lawmakers should respond.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would be a key player in whatever course House Republicans follow.
He noted Thursday that the Voting Rights Act still allows people to sue if they feel a voting procedure is unfair to minorities, and it still allows the Justice Department to subject cities, counties or states to pre-clearance if a federal court finds they intentionally discriminated.
“(These) procedures remain available today to those challenging voting rules as discriminatory,” Goodlatte said.
But he didn’t expressly rule out the possibility that Congress might come up with a way to reapply pre-clearance to certain parts of the country.