According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law's latest report, 33 laws passed by Republican legislators this year have made it more difficult for Americans to vote. These measures would not have been allowed to become law under the Voting Rights Act. However, the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices had revoked the landmark civil rights statute. Voting-rights advocates couldn't stop the anti-voting campaign.
The Freedom to Vote Act is being promoted by congressional Democrats at the federal level. While it would make a significant impact, the legislation does not address the court-imposed damages to the Voting Rights Act. These efforts are part a separate bill.
NPR reported yesterday that another bill is receiving renewed attention on Capitol Hill.
Tuesday's legislation was introduced by Senate Democrats to restore the power of the Voting Rights Act. This will allow them to continue their fight for voting rights against the slew that has been enacted in Republican-led States. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democratic Senator, introduced Tuesday's bill. He stated that "tens to thousands of Americans are being denied the right to vote under the pretext of state law."
This may sound familiar if it does. Leahy is the main sponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It passed the House in August. Yesterday, Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, made clear that he takes the bill seriously.
"This is an excellent bill. This is an urgent bill. Schumer stated that he was the majority leader and intends to vote on the legislation in the near future. "I am proud that this is designated as S.4, to commemorate Section IV's critical restoration formula ..... [W]e won't be discouraged just because some of your colleagues choose to remain silent, content to play politics on the health of the republic. The Senate must act on this issue and we will act.
The legislation is co-sponsored by 48 people, including the New York Democrat. Besides Joe Manchin from West Virginia, all members of the Senate Democratic Conference have signed on as original co-sponsors.
However, if we look back at our coverage recently, it wasn’t that long ago that we witnessed a completely different political dynamic. The Voting Rights Act was an area where bipartisan agreement was rare in the past. In 2006, when Congress reauthorized the 1965 measure, the House vote was 390-33.3 with almost 200 votes from GOP legislators. The Senate passed the reauthorization 98 to 0. Even the most conservative Senate Republicans did not want to be seen as supporters of the Voting rights Act.
George W. Bush was the president who signed the bill into law. He held a huge public celebration at the White House to mark the extension of one the most important pieces in American history.
Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made remarks on the Senate Floor at the time and praised the law's support.
"I happened to be there the day that the original voting rights bill signed," Kentuckian stated. He added, "We have, of necessity, renewed the Voting Right Act periodically since then, overwhelmingly and on a Bipartisan basis, year after YEAR after year because Congress recognizes this is a piece legislation which has worked." One of my favourite sayings is "If it ain’t broke don’t fix it."
McConnell stated, "This piece of legislation has served an important function over many years."
Seven years later, Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices took a hammer to the Voting rights Act. GOP lawmakers didn't want their legacy to be damaged and took advantage of the political opportunities created by the Supreme Court. Republicans could keep the status quo post-ruling in place indefinitely and use the new legal environment to tilt democracy in their favor.
Although I would love to believe that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has some chance of passing, unless Democrats agree for them to begin considering bills such as these by majority rule, then the chances of it succeeding are low.