Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) won’t support legislation to restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But on Sunday, he called for updating the landmark law in a way that sounds awfully similar to the legislation he opposes. In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Scott was asked if he supports a bill that would restore a key portion of the law that the Supreme Court struck down in June 2013. That provision, Section 4, 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. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that section was outdated, and left it up to Congress to come up with a new formula for designating which regions of the country warrant special scrutiny.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 has prevented the measure from moving forward. The House bill has just a handful of GOP co-sponsors; the forthcoming Senate bill has none.
Scott, one of two African-American senators, wouldn’t endorse the bill in his Sunday interview. Instead, he praised the Supreme Court for striking down Section 4 because he said the law unfairly punished Southern states for voter discrimination that took place decades ago. The key, he said, is to apply the law to the parts of the country currently engaging in voter disenfranchisement.
“What I would support is, take a second view at the Voting Rights Act, and see how we can apply it universally to all Americans, every place, and let’s judge people and states based on their performance today and not 40 or 50 years ago,” Scott said.