Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is introducing legislation that would block states from rearranging their congressional districts until after a 10-year Census takes place, a reaction to the Supreme Court ruling striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. “We cannot afford to sit back and watch our country move backwards — as legislators we must act,” Jackson Lee said Wednesday. “[B]ased on the Shelby case and its rationale, it is clear that Voting Rights Act is needed more than ever.” The high court on Tuesday struck down language in the act that establishes the criteria for determining which state and local governments must clear voting rules changes with the federal government, based on their history of having an under-representation of minority voters.
In its opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, the court said the language is outdated and unconstitutional, as it does not reflect the changes in the country since the act became law in 1965.
The Tuesday ruling led many Democrats to argue that the court nullified the Voting Rights Act and calls from civil-rights groups for lawmakers to find a way to update the legislation and protect voters.
Voting rights advocates say the decision could spur state officials to loosen the rules they use for redistricting decisions.
“The Voting Rights Act has been one of the most effective civil-rights laws passed by Congress and needs to be reinforced vigorously,” said Jackson Lee on Wednesday about her measure, the Coretta Scott King Mid-decade Redistricting Prohibition Act.