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Marcia F.
Democrat OH 11

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  • Cbc Hour: Voting Rights Act, Section 5

    by Representative Marcia L. Fudge

    Posted on 2013-02-25

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    FUDGE. Thank you so very much. And thank you, as well as Mr. Jeffries, for anchoring these CBC hours. It is wonderful to have new Members come to the House floor and do the work that we've been doing for so long. I am so proud of them and appreciative of the work they do, so thank you very much.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to send a clear message to those who would seek to undermine our constitutional right to vote: You will not win. The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. This is not the first time section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been challenged, and there is a very good chance that it will not be the last.

    {time} 2020 The Congressional Black Caucus and many others, even a number of Members from the other side of the aisle, have continually reauthorized and worked to protect section 5. In a matter of days, the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of section 5. If the Supreme Court does not ultimately decide to protect the uninhibited right to vote for all voters, no matter their race, the Court will not and must not have the last word on this matter.

    The 15th Amendment provides that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color, or previous servitude. Despite the passage of the 15th Amendment and ratification by the States, Congress has been forced to act in order to protect African American voters from violence and intimidation.

    Prior to the Voting Rights Act, the courts' attempts to protect voters proved inadequate. In 1965, at the height of the civil rights movement, when vicious dogs and poll taxes were used to block the ballot, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. This law was necessary then, and the last two Federal elections have shown, without a shadow of a doubt, that section 5 remains essential today.

    The right to vote is among the most important rights we enjoy as Americans. Because of its importance, because of the power behind the vote, it is the one right most often compromised; and for the same reasons, it is a right that we must do everything in our power to protect.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself.

    As the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, we must remember the words of Dr. King and the importance of section 5.

    Since 1982, approximately 2,400 discriminatory voting changes have been successfully blocked by the section 5 preclearance process. After the 2010 midterm elections, 8 of 11 States that were a part of the former confederacy passed new voting restrictions. These laws require government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot, proof of citizenship to register to vote, many cut back on early voting, and several disenfranchise ex-offenders. These laws are specifically designed to make it more difficult for minorities and other traditionally marginalized eligible voters to participate in the political process.

    The recent assault on voters was not restricted to the States with a history of voting discrimination. In my home State of Ohio, and in many other States and jurisdictions not covered by section 5, there were attempts to pass restrictive laws. Leading up to the 2012 election, 22 laws and 2 executive actions restricting voting rights were passed in 17 States, and 176 restrictive bills were filed in 41 States.

    The Federal Government should be doubling down on the Voting Rights Act by expanding and strengthening Federal protections. The long lines in Florida and the voting scams in Arizona were no coincidence. Section 5 is as necessary today is it was on the date of its inception in 1965 and should include more States and jurisdictions.

    [[Page H616]] Mr. HORSFORD. Thank you, Chairwoman Fudge. We look forward to your leadership on this issue and other issues under your steady hand of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 113th Congress.

    I now yield to the distinguished Member from North Carolina, Representative Butterfield.

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