During my 10 years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, I spent significant time in Milwaukee’s majority black neighborhoods. I listened as constituents described obstructions to their constitutional right to vote. In those days I came to believe that we needed a strong Voting Rights Act. Our credibility as elected officials depends on the fairness of our elections. So after joining Congress, I supported the law’s reauthorization in 1982, and, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I led successful efforts to reauthorize it in 2006. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of this most recent authorization. If Congress doesn’t act soon, 2016 will be the first time since 1964 that the United States will elect a president without the full protections of the law. Modernizing the act to address the Supreme Court’s concerns should be one of Congress’s highest priorities.
Enacted in 1965, the Voting Rights Act began a healing process that ameliorated decades of discrimination. It is vital to this country’s commitment to never again permit racial prejudice to determine who has access to a ballot.
One of the law’s core protections is its preclearance system. Before the law’s passage, states and local governments would discriminate against minority voters, Congress or courts would ban the discriminatory practices, and states would find new ways to discriminate.
Preclearance sought to remedy that problem by requiring states and localities with a documented history of discrimination to allow the federal government to review certain changes to voting practices before they are implemented. There is no adequate remedy for voter discrimination after an election because there is no way to know who would have won absent discrimination. Preclearance prevents discrimination before it affects elections.
Full Article: Suppress Votes? I’d Rather Lose My Job – The New York Times.