Nearly one year after the US Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act’s core provision and six months before a crucial midterm election, a bill to restore many of the VRA’s key protections remains stalled in Congress. The primary roadblock is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who has yet to hold a hearing on the measure. Reports indicate Goodlatte and other GOP leaders have claimed restoring Section 5 — which required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain certification that a proposed voting change would not hurt minorities — is unnecessary because the VRA’s Section 2 provides adequate protection, MSNBC reported. Advocates contend Section 2 is not enough for a number of reasons, including that challenges must be done on a case-by-case basis, which is inefficient, costly and will allow some discriminatory changes to fall through the cracks.
To prove this point, voting rights groups presented Goodlatte with a 16,000-word document highlighting scores of election changes halted by the VRA and others that went into effect after the high court’s decision. The memo also outlines the critical role Section 5 played in blocking those changes, many of which happened at the local level and garnered little notice.
With only a few months before Congress leaves for its summer recess, time is running out to move forward on the bill.
“The next several weeks are very crucial,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, DC, office. “The hope was always to have this passed and signed before the midterms.”