When the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in June, Democrats and civil rights activists vowed to breathe new life into the landmark law. Six months later, they haven’t gotten very far. Efforts in Congress to restore preclearance, the process by which the Justice Department reviews state election law changes for their effect on minorities, have stalled. And though a lawsuit aims to restore review of Texas based on allegations of recent discrimination, it’s months away from a hearing. A Congressional Black Caucus task force crafted a set of recommendations that would reinstate the formula for preclearance and sent it to Democratic leaders in August, but no legislation has come of it. If the recommendation became law, Texas could be back under preclearance, needing federal approval on every change, including tweaking districts, moving polling locations and changing voter ID laws. The recommendations would require federal oversight for any district where a law or change to voting procedure has been found by the court to be discriminatory since 2000. In August, a federal court found Texas’ voter ID law to be unconstitutional, and an appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected after its June ruling. But it could be awhile before Congress considers the matter. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat who helped lead the task force, said that the plan would have majority support in the House, but not from most Republicans who control the chamber — and it’s rare for the House to vote on a bill that most Republicans oppose.
“I’ve talked to some” Republicans, he said. “They’re waiting for a signal from their leadership.”
He noted that in 2006, when the Voting Rights Act was most recently renewed, many Republicans voted for it.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has said that he supports fixing parts of the law that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional.
The justices ruled that the law relied on an outdated formula to determine whether states should be subject to federal review.
Cantor “gave me the impression that this was an active piece of legislation as far as he’s concerned,” Butterfield said, recalling a brief conversation earlier this year. “It’s on his radar.”