Democrats and civil rights groups are stepping up demands for Congress to move on legislation that would require some Southern states, including Mississippi and Louisiana, to once again get federal approval before making election changes. Almost 160 Democrats in Congress recently wrote House Republican leaders calling for action on the stalled bill, which they said would “restore the safeguards of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.” Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., signed the letter. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, didn’t, saying the measure wouldn’t include key states with a long history of discrimination, including Alabama. “There is a lot of concern that many of those areas will not be covered with the new bill,” said Thompson. “At the end of the day if the bill comes to the floor in whatever form, in all probability I’ll support it. But at this point, I’m going to lobby for a better bill.”
The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 proposed by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would revise the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has a companion bill in the Senate.
The measure was crafted after the Supreme Courtthrew out the part of the 1965VotingRights Act — Section 4 — that determined which states and other jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination had to obtain “pre-clearance” from federal officials before making any changes to their election systems.
Most of the states were in the South, including Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Those states were at the heart of the battle for voting rights during the civil rights movement. State election officials in Mississippi and Louisiana complain the bill attempts to undo last year’s Supreme Court decision.