Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's About Suppression, Con't

Republicans continue to whine about the "Do-Nothing Democrats" who "are fixated on impeachment" and "won't pass legislation" while House Democrats are perfectly capable of passing legislation and are doing so.

In fact, House Democrats are passing legislation that House Republicans refused to pass when they were in power, like the now long-overdue fix to the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court six years ago because John Roberts decided that racism in voting didn't exist anymore, and that Congress needed to take care of updating it for the 21st century.

That's exactly what House Democrats did on Friday, with the help of precisely one Republican (and Justin Amash and everyone else voted against it.)

Six years after the Supreme Court stripped key parts of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, America’s signature legislation protecting voters of color, the House of Representatives passed a bill meant to restore those safeguards.

In a mostly party-line vote, the legislation was approved 228-187. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), is a key part of Democrats’ agenda to expand voting rights. It would make it more difficult for states to discriminate against voters of color, and give the federal government a stronger ability to take action against states with a history of discrimination.
In a 2018 interview, Sewell bluntly described strict voter ID laws as “modern-day forms of voter suppression.”

“While we no longer have to count how many jelly beans are in a jar or recite all of the 67 counties of Alabama in order to be able to vote, we are seeing greater efforts putting restrictions on voting in the name of fraud,” she told Vox, referencing Jim Crow-era tactics used to keep black Alabamians from voting. She represents Selma, Alabama, a city that was at the forefront of the 1960s civil rights movement.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act is designed to restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were invalidated by the US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. Way back at the beginning of the legislative session, it was initially tucked into HR 1, the sweeping anti-corruption bill that was Democrats’ first priority of the year. Lawmakers ultimately decided to break it out because Sewell and Democratic leaders anticipated the possibility of a long, drawn-out legal battle over the voting rights bill — potentially all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

The main argument of the Roberts Court decision in 2013 was that the formula for determining which states were subject to pre-clearance of state voter laws was outdated.  The new formula in the VRAA would be dependent on the number of voting rights violations in a state in a ten-year period instead of specific states with a previous history, and it would define what a violation was, giving substantial oversight power to the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Amazingly enough, the pre-clearance formula would affect nearly all the states in the original VRA.

If Sewell’s bill were passed today, she would like the federal government to take a closer look at 13 states with a history of voter discrimination: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, California, New York, and Virginia.

“We can’t unring the bell,” Sewell added. “What we’ve seen is that since Shelby, more than 30 states have imposed greater requirements for voting, and in a lot of those states, we’ve seen elections take place that have later been found to have had intentional discrimination.”

Naturally, this will never get a vote in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell will continue to say that the Democrats haven't passed anything in the last year.

I wish Democrats would do more to point this out.

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