Federal actions to enforce voting rights for minorities have declined sharply since the Supreme Court struck down the core of the 1965 Voting Rights Act five years ago, the federal Commission on Civil Rights says in a sweeping new report on voting issues. Even enforcement of the act’s remaining provisions has dropped markedly, the report states. In an interview before the report’s formal release on Wednesday, the head of the commission, Catherine E. Lhamon, called the present state of discrimination against minority voters “enduring and pernicious,” and said it was poorly addressed under federal law. “To be at this point in our history, without either meaningful federal protections in law or in practice from the United States Department of Justice, is a low point” since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, she said. “And that’s dangerous.”
The United States Commission on Civil Rights, created during the Eisenhower administration in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education and the Montgomery bus boycott, is a bipartisan panel responsible for assessing the extent of discrimination and proposing ways to reduce it. The commission’s findings played a crucial role in the passage of major civil rights legislation in the 1960s and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
In recent decades, the panel has at times become a partisan football. After being packed with conservatives during the George W. Bush administration, it reversed course on key civil rights issues, opposing reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and issuing a report questioning the benefits of diversity in schools.
But in a foreword to the commission’s latest report, Ms. Lhamon wrote that its key recommendations were unanimously supported by the commission’s eight members — six Democrats and two Republicans.