It was just last weekend that people flooded into Selma, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights marches there — marches that led to the Voting Rights Act. Dozens of lawmakers made the trek, including Democrats who have been desperately seeking Republicans to help them pass legislation to restore the landmark 1965 law. The Supreme Court in July 2013 struck down a key provision that determined which states and localities with a history of suppressing minority voters had to get permission from the Justice Department to change their voting laws. The court ruled 5-4 that the section of the law was outdated, and left it to Congress to come up with a new formula for designating which regions of the country warrant special scrutiny. Lawmakers have put forward a bill that offers a solution: It would update the formula to make it apply to states and jurisdictions with voting violations in the past 15 years. But supporters have had a hard time getting Republicans to sign on, which prevented the measure from moving in the last Congress. This year, the House bill has a handful of GOP co-sponsors; the forthcoming Senate bill has none.
Asked Tuesday if he supports efforts to restore the law with historic roots in his state, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he’s not sure what that’s all about.
“I’m not on the Judiciary Committee. I don’t follow that every day,” said Shelby. “You probably need to talk to one of the people who would do the initial action there.”
Shelby said he didn’t read the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, but remembers seeing something about it in the newspaper. He said he doesn’t know anything about how members of Congress are proposing to fix the law.