Congress kicked off an effort to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with a series of Capitol Hill hearings this week, less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court severely weakened the law by striking down a key anti-discrimination provision. No legislation has been proposed yet. But senators and a leading representative spoke during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday about their appetite to fix the now-unconstitutional Section 4 formula, which set out when a state or local jurisdiction warrants special scrutiny before it can implement electoral changes. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who led the House effort to reauthorize the VRA in 2006, testified that he is committed to crafting a constitutional response to the Shelby County v. Holder decision that “will last a long time.”
Preserving the VRA – whether with a new formula for Section 4 or other change – is necessary to stop discriminatory practices before they affect elections, Sensenbrenner said. But he still acknowledged the difficult political atmosphere in Congress for passing a fix. “Sometimes the differences between the House and the Senate are the difference between here and the moon,” he said. “Hopefully, not on this one.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s chairman, quickly agreed, and said he wanted to move a fix sometime in the fall, after the August break. “I hope that both parties, both bodies will (work together) on this issue,” Leahy said. “You protect the right to vote for everybody.”
Sensenbrenner will lead a House hearing Thursday on the VRA and the Supreme Court’s decision, although it was not immediately clear whether House leaders would take up legislation this year.
Full Article: Congress Gingerly Takes Up Voting Rights Legislation.