Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vermont) proposed Voting Rights Act amendment to commemorate the occasion. “From its inception through several reauthorizations the Voting Rights Act has always been a bipartisan, bilateral effort,” Leahy said, “and it would be a travesty if it became partisan for the very first time in this nation’s history.” What was Leahy talking about? In 2006, when the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized, no Republican senators voted against it. In 2014, no GOP senators have stepped forward to co-sponsor the amendment to update it.
Republicans at the hearing echoed the five justices who struck down part of the act last June, saying that the Section 4 formulas used to decide which states the Justice Department would monitor for discrimination were outdated. “It should apply to Minnesota, it should apply to Vermont, it should apply to the entire country,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, not just the Southern states originally targeted by the act. “It imposes a presumption on guilt that is not born out by the evidence.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told the committee that the Voting Rights Act works well enough without Section 4. “No one should doubt that voter discrimination is less widespread than it was in the 1960s. The current voting rights act is strongly enforced and is protecting the rights of all Americans to vote.”