LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, former Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), ranking Judiciary Committee member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers introduced HR 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-VT has filed identical legislation in the Senate.
The legislation comes as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in June of last year to strike down the federal protection that required certain localities nationwide to undergo federal approval before changing elections procedures. The Voting Rights Act has historically protected the most vulnerable minority communities across the nation.
Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF, released the following statement: “Last June, a narrow Supreme Court majority dealt a severe blow to every American’s voting rights by incapacitating one of the most powerful civil rights enforcement tools ever enacted – a mechanism to secure swift and cost-effective review of electoral changes that could discriminate against minority communities. The pre-clearance process and obligation in section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) had, for nearly half a century, ably served to timely secure and ensure the voting rights of all. Fortunately, the Court majority’s folly can be righted through the enactment of federal legislation that would restore the longstanding and overwhelming bipartisan consensus in support of this critical protection.
As one of the most prominent defenders of voting rights in the court system nationwide, MALDEF welcomes the introduction today of bipartisan congressional legislation to redress the harm inflicted by the decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The legislation would again ensure that potential violations of voting rights in jurisdictions with egregious histories of discrimination may be resolved quickly and efficiently through a pre-clearance review process. We look forward to a vigorous legislative process that results in the best possible legislation being sent to the President’s desk in 2014.
At the same time, MALDEF strongly supports and will actively champion the inclusion in this legislation of what has been called ‘known practices coverage.’ This new approach would supplement the provisions introduced today by ensuring that certain limited electoral practices, historically demonstrated to be a threat to voting rights, are subject to a pre-clearance process, including in jurisdictions that have experienced a more recent change in population diversity. This approach will ensure that the new VRA pre-clearance mechanism serves a dynamic and fast-evolving twenty-first century America, rather than requiring challenges to these known suspect voting practices to be waged through time-consuming and cumbersome litigation that is extremely costly to both plaintiffs and defendants. Inclusion of ‘known practices coverage’ will secure a VRA that continues to support a robust national democracy through the next half-century and beyond.”