WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 16, 2014) — The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statement in response to Thursday’s introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 in the U.S. House of Representatives:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law thanks Representatives Sensenbrenner, Conyers, Chabot, Scott, and Senator Leahy and others for demonstrating true and meaningful leadership on this critically-important issue for our country. They are upholding Congress’s longstanding bipartisan commitment to enforcing the Constitution’s protections against racial voting discrimination.
“The time has come to move this legislation forward, because new protections need to be in place for the 2014 election,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine. “This bill does many good things that deserve support. While we are very concerned by some provisions that have been included, there will be an opportunity to address those issues as the bill moves forward.”
“The Shelby County v. Holder decision was a devastating blow to federal protections for the right to vote,” added Ms. Arnwine. “The Supreme Court’s decision rendered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act inoperative, removing federal review for voting changes in thousands of jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination. To do nothing in response to the Shelby County decision would be simply inexcusable.”
Background on Shelby v Holder Decision and New Section 5 Amendment
The Supreme Court’s opinion in Shelby County v. Holder made it clear that new legislation should follow new approaches, stating that jurisdictions covered by Section 5 preclearance should be identified based on current problems and recent events. The bill responds directly to that ruling by providing for a new, dynamic approach to Section 5 coverage.
Under the new bill, states or political subdivisions will be covered by the Section 5 preclearance requirement based primarily upon whether they have a record of recent voting discrimination. Any new Section 5 coverage provisions will leave some areas without preclearance review. The bill addresses this by providing for disclosure of changes in voting practices, and other ways. The bill also improves the standards used to assign federal observers and for federal courts to order preclearance under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act.
The Lawyers’ Committee is deeply troubled by the provisions in the bill concerning voter ID. The bill does not prevent legal challenges to discriminatory ID requirements, but it does limit the consequences in the event that a federal court or the Attorney General finds that a voter ID law is discriminatory. On the whole, this bill is a positive and necessary step toward restoring some of the protections for voters’ rights that the Shelby County decision removed. The Lawyers’ Committee looks forward to working in the coming months to improve the bill so that we can support it without reservation.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We celebrated our 50thanniversary in 2013 and continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending; community development; employment; voting; education and environmental justice.
For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.