Written by Zachary Lobel
This morning, the Supreme Court released a decision striking down a vital section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court's action is a threat to the Act's significant progress in reducing voter discrimination over the last half-century. The heart and soul of the VRA requires federal approval -- "pre-clearance" -- for changes to state and local voting laws in historically problematic jurisdictions. This morning's decision struck down the formula Congress last re-authorized in 2006 to determine which specific state and local jurisdictions would be subject pre-clearance.
Common Cause has a history of robust support for the VRA, lobbying extensively for its reauthorization in both 1982 and 2006 and submitting an amicus brief to the Supreme Court with its allies earlier this year defending the law's constitutionality. In 1966, Common Cause chairman emeritus, the late Archibald Cox, defended the initial version of the VRA before the Supreme Court (click here for the oral argument). That was fitting, because he helped with its initial drafting, as well.
Our former Chairman Cox won that case back in 1966. In fact, until this morning, the Supreme Court has affirmed the Voting Rights Act four separate times.
Although the Court's activist decision today is a setback for voters, Congress has the power to reinstate the preclearance requirement by replacing and amending the fallen provision, an action that Common Cause and its allies strongly urge lawmakers to take. Congress spoke to the issue in 2006 when it reauthorized the VRA, finding that, although the law significantly reduced direct barriers to voting and increased minority registration and turnout, more subtle forms of discrimination still exist, such as efforts to minimize the impact of minority votes. Accordingly, Congress voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize, endorsing the benefits of the VRA's protections and the continued need for federal oversight of state and local voting laws and procedures. You can see the tallies in the House here and the Senate here.
We urge Congress to continue to voice its support for the VRA and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the American people continue to benefit from the Act's voter protections that have made our elections fairer and more open.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections
Tags: Voting Rights