Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Voter Suppression and Continuing Threats to Democracy"
Washington, January 20, 2022
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing on "Voter Suppression and Continuing Threats to Democracy:"
"Today’s hearing on 'Voter Suppression and Continuing Threats to Democracy' comes at a critical point in our history.
"For the past several weeks, the debate surrounding voting rights has been almost exclusively focused on Senate procedure. Yet it is critical to remember that, while the Senate negotiates changes to its procedure, states like Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio continue their assault on democracy.
"Legislation to protect the fundamental right to vote in fair elections, free from racial discrimination, faces united obstruction from Republicans in the Senate.
"Ironically, they are so intent on blocking legislation to strengthen our democracy that they will not even permit the most basic democratic act—a majority vote.
"This disregard for core, small 'd' democratic values no longer surprises many of us—but, until relatively recently, both parties shared a commitment to supporting the Voting Rights Act. As President Biden pointed out in his recent speech in Atlanta, the Senate voted 98 to 0 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Sixteen Republican Senators who voted to reauthorize the Act that year still serve in the Senate—but now they stand firmly in united opposition.
"Here in the House, Mr. Chabot and I joined our former Chairman, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Ranking Member John Conyers to lead efforts to pass the 2006 reauthorization overwhelmingly by a vote of 390 to 33. President George W. Bush signed it into law. Sadly, that seems like ancient history now.
"As the threat to voting rights evolved, for decades after the Act’s initial adoption, Congress routinely updated and reauthorized the law on a strong bipartisan basis in response to less racially overt—but no less discriminatory—threats to the right to vote.
"For example, Section 2 of the Act, which will be a primary focus of today’s hearing, was amended on a bipartisan basis in 1982 to address attempts by states to dilute the strength of minority voting power through the redistricting process and other changes to the methods of election on the federal, state, and local level.
"As we will hear from our witnesses today, vote dilution efforts remain a critical threat to our democracy, as certain states seek to co-opt the redistricting process.
"These state attempts to dilute the strength of votes cast by minority voters are even more alarming in light of efforts by Republican state and local officials to manipulate the composition of local election boards or otherwise change laws related to the administration of elections.
"The potential cumulative result of these various changes to voting procedures and district lines—if they remain in place—is a serious reduction in minority voting strength and a reduction in Black, Latino, and other minorities’ representation and participation in government at every level. An elected government that does not accurately reflect the participation of American voters—all American voters, regardless of race—is no true democracy.
"In response to these efforts, Congress must do once again what it has done repeatedly on a bipartisan basis for decades since 1965—update and strengthen the Voting Rights Act to ensure that all Americans can continue to vote and participate in our democracy.
"Yet this time, we have been met with total obstruction. The problem is not one Senator from West Virginia. The problem is a political party that has given in to cynicism and adopted the worst arguments of those who opposed the passage of the Act in 1965, all to gain some marginal political advantage.
"Michael Carvin, representing the Arizona Republican Party in the Supreme Court, gave away the game when he boldly admitted this position in open court. In response to a question from Justice Amy Coney Barrett about why his Party had an interest in defending strict voting restrictions that were alleged to violate Section 2, he commented that eliminating them 'puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through (an arguably) unlawful interpretation of Section 2 hurts us.' He wants to weaken voting rights because it will help him win. It’s that simple.
"If we are to remain a true democracy, we must resist attempts to poison our election machinery with partisan interests that disenfranchise minority voters. And we must stop attempts by states to deny or dilute the votes of Americans because of their ethnicity or skin color. Our Constitution and our values command no less."I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and I yield back the balance of my time."