Congress leaned toward a breakthrough on Thursday, as elder statesmen from both parties agreed on a plan to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Rep. John Lewis, who was beaten during the Selma march for civil rights in 1965, joined Rep. John Conyers, first elected that same year, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the conservative author of the Patriot Act and a longtime backer of the Voting Rights Act. They offered the first legislative response to the Supreme Court’s decision gutting the law last year. In June, the court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act because the law was not updated for current conditions. Chief Justice Roberts criticized Congress for using “40-year-old data” to patrol modern voter discrimination. That was peculiar logic, since most federal regulations sit on the books without updates. After all, laws aren’t iPhone apps. Their power comes from permanence, not a constant refinement. As Richard Posner, a respected appeals judge, explained in a critique of the ruling, “ordinarily… a federal statute is not invalidated on the ground that it’s dated.”
The upside, however, was that Roberts’ complaint was eminently fixable. If the Justices wanted new data, Congress could just give it to them. That’s what the new bill does.
While the original law used literacy tests and turnout data from the civil rights era to pick which states required extra supervision to prevent discrimination, the “Voting Rights Amendments Act” uses more recent discrimination.
If a state is found to discriminate against voters five times, over a 15 year period, that conduct “triggers” federal supervision to protect the state’s voters. There is a similar formula for local jurisdictions. Call it “five strikes and you’re in.”
Full Article: Major hole in new voting rights bill | MSNBC.