Bipartisan Judiciary Members: Supreme Court Acknowledges the Work of the Voting Rights Act is Not Complete
Washington, DC, June 26, 2013
Today, senior members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee including John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr, (R-Wis.), Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.), and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) released this statement addressing the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder that overturned the coverage formula for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 decision, the Court voted "Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in [Section] 2. We issue no holding on [Section] 5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions."
John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “While I am encouraged that the Court upheld the preclearance requirement of Section 5, its decision striking the coverage formula in Section 4 will do real damage to voting rights absent a swift and clear congressional legislative response. It is unfortunate that the Court ignored Congress’ unprecedented and comprehensive legislative findings in reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act in 2006 on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis. The decision missed an opportunity to reinforce the important role that the federal government has in ensuring that all Americans have an equal right to access the ballot box and have their votes count. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the voting rights of all Americans are protected.”
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.): “The Voting Rights Act is vital to America’s commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in the electoral process. Section 5 of the Act was a bipartisan effort to rectify past injustices and ensure minorities’ ability to participate in elections, but the threat of discrimination still exists. I am disappointed by the Court’s ruling, but my colleagues and I will work in a bipartisan fashion to update Section 4 to ensure Section 5 can be properly implemented to protect voting rights, especially for minorities. This is going to take time and will require members from both sides of the aisle to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans’ most sacred right is protected.”
Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.): “My colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and I helped build a voluminous legislative record of over 15,000 pages that we believe more than justified reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and extension of the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the VRA. Today, the activist majority on the Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of taking over a uniquely legislative function in disregard of the extensive work of the legislative branch and substituting their own judgment for that of elected representatives. The decision overturning Section 4 of the VRA leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to discrimination in the most fundamental right of citizenship—the right to vote. I am deeply disappointed by the result they have reached and its impact on minority voters as well as the precedent they have set for disregarding the factual and political judgment of elected Members of Congress.”
Steve Chabot (R-Ohio): “I am disappointed that the Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act’s coverage formula, which has been used for decades to help protect the voting rights of millions of Americans. However, by leaving Section 5’s pre-clearance requirements intact, the Court has given Congress the opportunity to amend the coverage formula to preserve these important protections. I am hopeful that we will work together to enact an appropriate fix in the same bipartisan manner and spirit that we did when reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act in 2006.”