Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019. H.R. 4 is comprehensive and much-needed legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full vitality.
"This bill responds to the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively gutted the Act’s most important enforcement mechanism—Section 5—which requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to obtain Justice Department or federal court approval before any changes to their voting laws can take effect. The Court struck down the coverage formula that determined which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance, but it expressly said that Congress could 'draft another formula based on current conditions.' That, among other things, is exactly what H.R. 4 does.
"This bill is the result of an extensive process that included 18 hearings before three different House Committees. This process developed a record demonstrating that states and localities—and, in particular, those that were formerly subject to preclearance—have engaged in various voter suppression tactics, such as imposing burdensome proof of citizenship laws; polling place closures; purges of voter rolls; and significant scale-backs to early voting periods. These kinds of voting restrictions have a disproportionate and negative impact on racial and language minority voters and deprive them of a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.
"In short, the record is clear that substantial voter suppression exists across the country, and that H.R. 4’s coverage formula is necessary to address this discrimination. This legislation not only updates the existing formula to ensure that it accounts for current conditions, but it is also designed so that the formula will update itself regularly as conditions change, thereby directly responding to the Court’s concern in Shelby County.
"Not surprisingly, the suspension of preclearance unleashed a deluge of voter suppression laws across the nation, making restoration of this tool even more necessary.
"As we consider the record and the need for H.R. 4, it is worth remembering why Congress enacted preclearance in the first place. Before the Voting Rights Act, we saw essentially a game of 'whack-a-mole' in which states and localities could engage in voter suppression, secure in the knowledge that any discriminatory law that was struck down by a court could quickly be replaced by another. Preclearance successfully put an end to this game of 'whack-a-mole.'
"I want to thank Terri Sewell for crafting this important legislation, and for her efforts over the last several years on this bill. I also want to recognize the leadership of Marcia Fudge, Chair of the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, for her extraordinary work in conducting numerous field hearings examining voting problems around the country, as well as Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Steve Cohen, who presided over many hearings in the Judiciary Committee, to develop the substantial record on which this legislation is based.
"The Voting Rights Act represents one of the nation’s most important civil rights victories, one achieved by those who marched, struggled, and even died to secure the right to vote for all Americans. I urge my colleagues to honor their sacrifices and to enable Section 5, once again, to protect the rights of all Americans to vote."