Cbc Hour: Voting Rights Act, Section 5by Representative Danny K. Davis
Posted on 2013-02-25
DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, in the run-up to the
2012 elections Republican-controlled legislatures passed a wide range
of bills designed to restrict, rather than broaden, access to the
ballot box. Despite multiple comprehensive reports and findings
demonstrating that impersonating another voter is more rare than being
struck by lightning, thirty one states now require ID, fifteen require
photo ID, for voting, potentially disenfranchising five million voters
mostly minorities, especially African Americans, and senior citizens.
Other recent oppressive state laws aim at making it more difficult to
register to vote and scale back early voting periods. Several states
undertook massive (and subsequently proven fraudulent) purges of the
voting rolls. Some of the most egregious attempts at suppressing the
vote occurred in states which required pre-clearance under the 1965
Voting Rights Act because of their long history of voter suppression.
Without Section 5 in place, many of the roughly 2,400 blocked voting
changes proposed since 1982 would have had a significant adverse impact
Following the Civil War Congress recognized the critical central role of voting in our democracy and passed the fifteenth amendment which gives the Federal Government primary authority to prevent discrimination in voting. The amendment was ratified by the states and the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is a direct implementation of that authority to prevent any attempt to limit access to the ballot. The Supreme Court has itself noted that Congress, not the Court, has the special responsibility to protect voting rights. The fact is that, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote in 2006, Congress found that voting discrimination continues to persist, and it undermines our democracy and therefore reauthorized the VRA for twenty-five years.
This year marks the 48th Anniversary of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and I join in calling for a new generation of Freedom Riders to join with tens of thousands of original Freedom Riders in standing tall for our hard won voting rights.
Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in Shelby County v. Holder this week, it is critical that we recognize the importance of upholding the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in order to preserve the rights of all Americans. To strip the VRA of its most effective provision now would be to turn our backs on millions of Americans who continue to be targeted by discriminatory voting practices.
The 2012 Presidential Election exemplified the persistent threats that work to disenfranchise voters. Long lines at polling places, the purging of voter registration rolls, and blatant efforts to intimidate select groups of voters have mired the electoral process in many localities. In Texas, two harsh voter mandates were passed in 2012 which were designed to create hurdles to voting with restrictive voter ID laws, and to dilute the voting power of the burgeoning minority population. In a testament to the necessity of the VRA, both measures were blocked under Section 5, preventing inequality of voting rights in Texas.
Historically, Congress has always reauthorized Section 5 of the VRA on a bipartisan basis, and as recently as 2006. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed more than 1,000 objections under Section 5 since 1982, protecting millions of voters from discrimination. The Supreme Court has upheld Section 5 of the VRA four times.
Mr. Speaker, voter disenfranchisement still poses a great threat to the electoral process. The Voting Rights Act is an essential tool in our fight to preserve equal voting rights for all Americans. Through the VRA, Congress has exercised its constitutional authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to ensure voters have free and fair access to the polls. Until there is sufficient evidence to suggest that efforts to suppress minority voters have been mitigated, the Voting Rights Act must be upheld in its entirety.