Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deliver on the Vow.

Earlier today, the US Supreme Court threatened four decades worth of civil rights advancements by overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and demanding a redo from Congress. And unless and until Congress comes up with a new VRA Section 4, victims of ballot box discrimination will be forced to endure a much more difficult legal process to pursue justice. So is this what we have to endure going forward?

Perhaps not. Already, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is promising swift action on restoring the full VRA.

"Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years, yet the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the coverage formula effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from discriminatory practices. I could not disagree more with this result or the majority's rationale. The Voting Rights Act has been upheld five times by the Supreme Court on prior occasions, and Section 5 was reauthorized and signed into law by a Republican President in 2006 after a thorough and bipartisan process in which Congress overwhelmingly determined that the law was still vital to protecting minority voting rights and that the coverage formula determining the jurisdictions to be covered was still applicable. Several lower court decisions in recent years have found violations of the Voting Rights Act and evidence of intentional discrimination in covered jurisdictions. Despite this sound record, and the weight of history, a narrow majority has decided today to substitute its own judgment over the exhaustive legislative findings of Congress.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting."

And that's not all. Senator Leahy already has the support of Mr. Majority Leader...

SenatorReid: Congress needs to right the wrong of this #VRA opinion and ensure that we do not turn back the clock on America’s democratic progress.

And that's not all, either. Civil rights hero and current Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) is vowing to press on to restore the VRA.

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines,” Lewis told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?” he asked.

Congress voted to renew the Voting Rights Act in 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006, each time with increasingly larger margins.

Twenty Republican senators who are still serving in Congress supported re-authorization in 2006 and only 33 members in the House voted against it.“It is going to be very difficult,” to pass legislation in this Congress, Lewis admitted, “but people said the same thing in 1965.” “I think what happened today with the Supreme Court will motivate hundreds and thousands of people, African American, latino, white, Asian American, Native Americans, men, women, students, to come out. The vote is precious.”

And that's not even all! Back in March, even the former Republican House Judiciary Committee Chair vowed to restore the VRA if SCOTUS were to overturn any parts of it. Now, it's time for him to deliver on that vow.

This nation is supposed to provide "liberty and justice for all". Yet how is this even possible if millions of Americans can't even vote? How is this even possible when millions of Americans are constantly threatened by draconian voter suppression laws meant to prevent them from exercising this most basic right? It's time for Congress remember the most basic vow this country makes to its citizens.

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