After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, it instructed Congress to revisit and update the law in accordance with all that has changed since the legislation was originally enacted.
Under Republican control, Congress did not prioritize voting rights issues, and now that House Democrats are working to honor the court’s instruction, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has accused them of an attempted power grab.
In the Senate, where Republicans still control the agenda, McConnell was adamant Tuesday that no fix is needed.
“The only common motivation running through the whole proposal seems to be this — Democrats searching for ways to give Washington politicians more control over what Americans say about them and how they get people elected,” the Kentucky Republican said in a Senate floor speech.
“It’s an attempt to rewrite the rules...in order to benefit one over the other,” he said.
But Democrats argue their bill, called “For the People Act of 2019,” is necessary in light of the Supreme Court’s decision, which allowed states that previously needed federal approval for voting rule changes to make those changes without oversight.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) noted that many of those states and jurisdictions — which include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as local jurisdictions in California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota — were quick to employee voter suppression as soon as the Supreme Court gave the green light.
“Predictably, some states wasted no time in enacting discriminatory voter suppression laws in the wake of the Shelby County decision,” Nadler said at Tuesday’s hearing. “It does not help that President Trump has encouraged conspiracy theories about massive voter fraud as a justification for voter identification laws, and other voter suppression tactics.”
Though Democrats have pointed out that it was the nation's highest court that urged Congress to re-examine the law, Republican leadership has remained unmoved.
The Supreme Court, in its 5-4 ruling in 2013, said that part of the Voting Rights Act must be updated to account for how times have changed since Congress first wrote the legislation. The justices urged lawmakers to revisit the law.
Efforts to do so went nowhere in a Republican-controlled Congress. Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, declined to move a bipartisan bill that was crafted to to address the court’s concern.