Thursday, July 18, 2013

Senate Judiciary Committee Ponders the Shelby County Decision

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing regarding the Voting Rights Act and the recent Supreme Court Decision Shelby County v. Holder.

The Supreme Court last month ruled 5-4 that the formula contained in Section 4 of the law is outdated and therefore unconstitutional.

"Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. "Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions."

The Supreme Court struck down the formula used to determine which states must obtain federal permission before changing any voting laws saying that the formula was unconstitutional and outdated.

Chief Justice Roberts suggested that Congress could "draft another formula based on current conditions."

Ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said he agrees with the Supreme Court's decision that the formula needs updating and suggested that warnings of modern-day voter discrimination are overblown.

"We last voted to reauthorize the Act in 2006. Much has changed since then," said Grassley, senior Republican on the panel. "The voter turnout rate was higher last year among registered African-American voters than for whites. More African-American and Hispanic candidates than ever are winning elections. The Supreme Court has found these facts to be of constitutional significance."

But Grassley also pushed back hard against the notion that Republicans aren't interested in updating the formula, and he went after Democrats who have suggested as much even before legislation has emerged.

"Rather than blaming Republicans for blocking a bill that does not exist, the majority should bring forth a proposal for updating the coverage formula in a constitutional way," he said. "We could cover the whole country."

There is no place for discrimination at polling stations however, times have changed and by basing preclearance requirements in the voting rights act on conditions going back to 1958, clearly that requirement is outdated.


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