Passing a new Voting Rights Act in the GOP-dominated House was never going to be easy, supporters acknowledge. But with a powerful Republican such as Eric Cantor as an ally, hope flickered for nearly a year. Then came June 10 and the shocking primary defeat that tanked Cantor’s congressional career — taking with it, in all likelihood, any prospect for an update of the landmark 1965 civil rights legislation that had been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Even with Cantor as majority leader, said a House aide close to the VRA negotiations, “I would have speculated that it was certainly a very steep climb. That it was unlikely, but there was still hope.” But with the Virginia Republican out of the mix, the aide said, “it doesn’t appear we’re going to see it this Congress.”
Virginia: As Eric Cantor steps down, Virginia election officials worry about voter confusion | Washington Times
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to quit Congress early is producing headaches back home, where elections officials worry that voters will be confused when they go to the polls on Nov. 4. The ballot will have two different races for the state’s 7th Congressional District — one a special election for a member to serve two months of a lame-duck session in Congress, and the other to elect someone for the 114th Congress starting in January. But both election lines likely will feature the same two men — Democrat Jack Trammell and Republican David Brat, who unseated Mr. Cantor in the June primary. In addition to what may look like double printing, the Libertarian Party candidate also argues the special election is “suspect at best” because signatures for third-party candidates to appear on the special ballot are due by Friday, leaving little time to collect the 1,000 names needed to earn a spot.
This complicates things. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has called for a special election in the 7th Congressional District to fill the vacancy being left by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Henrico. Mr. Cantor was defeated in the Republican primary in June and lost the right to defend his seat. Now he says he will resign this month. Granted, Mr. Cantor’s decision to leave Congress in August was billed as an effort to spare Virginia two additional months of representation by a lame-duck leader. But his surprise move also pushes candidates and, to some degree, voters into an accelerated scramble. Whoever wins the special election in November will have to take his seat in Congress almost immediately — two months earlier than expected. Had not Mr. Cantor announced his retirement, there would have been no special election and the winner of the general election would have been seated in January. The accelerated timetable may pose a hardship even for major party candidates Dave Brat, R-Henrico, and Jack Trammell, D-Louisa. And it certainly will pose a hardship for Libertarian candidate James A. Carr Jr. of Louisa County.
Less than two months after his stunning primary upset and just hours after stepping down as House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said Thursday that he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18. “I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor said in an exclusive interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Thursday afternoon. Cantor said he has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election for his district that coincides with the general election on Nov. 4. By having a special election in November, the winner would take office immediately, rather than in January with the next Congress.
The recent primary loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor set off a barrage of political analysis that concluded that any large-scale overhaul of the country’s immigration laws was dead. But the ouster of Cantor (R-Va.) also upended Democratic hopes for a bill intended to counter a Supreme Court decision last year that halted several major provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Shelby v. Holder decision stalled the requirement that nine states — each with histories of racially discriminatory actions to keep minorities from voting — must submit any changes to voting procedures to the Justice Department before they can be implemented.
Editorials: Eric Cantor’s Last, Legacy-Burnishing Task: Update the VRA | Ron Chistie/The Daily Beast
As the fallout from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary defeat continues, the departing number two in the House should burnish his legacy by pushing through a bill to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The Voting Rights Act prohibits discriminatory actions that had largely denied blacks the ability to vote in the South since Reconstruction following the Civil War. Congress has reauthorized the provisions of the VRA four times—most recently in 2006, under the leadership of George W. Bush and with bipartisan support from Congress. The House supported the measure 390-33 and the Senate unanimously approved the legislation 98-0. So why reauthorize the VRA now, and why should Eric Cantor be the driving force?
When William E. Davis was growing up here in DeSoto County, just across the state line from Memphis, there were more than 300 dairy farms, and he was raised on one of them. “Now there are zero,” said Mr. Davis, 66, who is known as Sluggo, the chancery court clerk in a county that has been transformed into a booming suburb of over 168,000 residents. About 800 miles to the east, the same kind of sweeping changes have taken hold in the sprawling suburbs around Richmond, Va., where woods and farmland have been turned into gleaming new subdivisions with names meant to evoke the state’s colonial past. In both states, the growth fueled by a migration of newcomers from other parts of the country and even abroad is bringing nationalized politics to races further down the ballot. It was these new arrivals, more than any other voters, who most crucially rejected two influential Republican incumbents — the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi — in primaries this month, upending long-held assumptions about the appeal of traditional levers of power.
Eric Cantor’s primary defeat last night offers a good explanation for why so many Republicans are no longer willing to back efforts to protect voting rights. After the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating a key section of the VRA last year, Cantor vowed to “find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected.” He was the only member of the GOP leadership to take such a position. Supporters of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 were counting on his support (even though he remained noncommittal to date).
House Democrats are amping up their pressure on GOP leaders to move on legislation to restore voting rights protections shot down by the Supreme Court last year. In a March 27 letter, Democratic leaders noted that the high court’s ruling “acknowledged the persistence of voter discrimination,” and they urged the Republicans to take up a bipartisan proposal, designed to counteract such prejudices, before November’s elections. “Some of us believe the bill should be enacted in its current form, and some of us would prefer to see it amended,” the Democrats wrote to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). “But all of us stand united in our desire for the House to consider the issue in time for the entire Congress to work its will before the August district work period.” Spearheaded by Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, the letter was endorsed by 160 Democrats, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), caucus Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking member of the Judiciary panel, and Rep. John Dingell (Mich.), the House dean. GOP leaders have not said if they’ll try to move legislation on the issue this year.
After two trips to the Deep South alongside civil rights icon and Georgia Democrat John Lewis, the pressure is on Eric Cantor to deliver on the Voting Rights Act. The majority leader has made a major, personal investment in connecting to the civil rights movement — something that ultimately could prove important for a GOP that regularly polls in the single digits among African-Americans and poorly among other minorities. But translating participation in the Faith and Politics Institute’s annual pilgrimage into legislative text that can win support from the bulk of the Republican Conference isn’t an easy task. And so far, Cantor hasn’t laid out a clear path for a bill nine months after declaring his support for a congressional response to the Supreme Court decision striking down the VRA’s core enforcement mechanisms. Democrats have signaled that they trust Cantor, a Virginia Republican, on this issue, and that the extent to which he is able to help advance a VRA fix depends largely on his ability to mobilize his flock, many of whom are hostile to the idea.
A senior Democrat on Tuesday said he was “hopeful” the House would approve new voting rights legislation by the summer, despite the lack of an endorsement from the Republican leadership. “We are very hopeful that we will pass a voting rights bill and do so in the near term, hopefully in the next couple of months,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during his weekly briefing with reporters. Hoyer over the weekend participated in an annual bipartisan pilgrimage to the South commemorating the civil rights movement. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also attended events on the trip, and Hoyer said he planned to meet with Cantor this week to discuss a legislative response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Cantor has joined the pilgrimage with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader, for the past two years, but he has yet to take a position on a bill that Lewis wrote with GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.).
When the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in June, Democrats and civil rights activists vowed to breathe new life into the landmark law. Six months later, they haven’t gotten very far. Efforts in Congress to restore preclearance, the process by which the Justice Department reviews state election law changes for their effect on minorities, have stalled. And though a lawsuit aims to restore review of Texas based on allegations of recent discrimination, it’s months away from a hearing. A Congressional Black Caucus task force crafted a set of recommendations that would reinstate the formula for preclearance and sent it to Democratic leaders in August, but no legislation has come of it. If the recommendation became law, Texas could be back under preclearance, needing federal approval on every change, including tweaking districts, moving polling locations and changing voter ID laws. The recommendations would require federal oversight for any district where a law or change to voting procedure has been found by the court to be discriminatory since 2000. In August, a federal court found Texas’ voter ID law to be unconstitutional, and an appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected after its June ruling. But it could be awhile before Congress considers the matter. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat who helped lead the task force, said that the plan would have majority support in the House, but not from most Republicans who control the chamber — and it’s rare for the House to vote on a bill that most Republicans oppose.
John Lewis was the 23-year-old son of Alabama sharecroppers and already a veteran of the civil rights movement when he came to the capital 50 years ago this month to deliver a fiery call for justice on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As we prepare to cover the anniversary of the march and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved “I Have a Dream” address, we want to hear from people who were there. Mr. Lewis’s urgent cry — “We want our freedom, and we want it now!” — was eclipsed on the steps that day by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. But two years later, after Alabama State Police officers beat him and fractured his skull while he led a march in Selma, he was back in Washington to witness President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today Mr. Lewis is a congressman from Georgia and the sole surviving speaker from the March on Washington in August 1963. His history makes him the closest thing to a moral voice in the divided Congress. At 73, he is still battling a half-century later. With the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy now that the Supreme Court has invalidated one of its central provisions, Mr. Lewis, a Democrat, is fighting an uphill battle to reauthorize it. He is using his stature as a civil rights icon to prod colleagues like the Republican leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, to get on board. He has also met with the mother of Trayvon Martin and compared his shooting to the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till.
House Democrats hoping to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA) have an unlikely ally in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). While other GOP leaders have shown little enthusiasm for replacing the anti-discrimination protections the Supreme Court snipped this summer from the landmark civil rights law, Cantor is already talking to prominent Democrats about doing just that. “We’ve had a one-on-one; it went very well,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told The Hill last Friday, as Congress was leaving town for a five-week recess. Asked if Cantor is eyeing a legislative fix that would satisfy Democrats, Lewis didn’t hesitate. “Yes, yes, by all means,” he said.