WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) joined over 160 of his House colleagues in sending a letter to House Leadership demanding action on the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (H.R. 3899), which restores the Voting Rights Act (VRA) after the Supreme Court overturned key provisions of the law last year. The full text of the letter follows this release.
“This bipartisan bill will revive the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s unfortunate ruling so that this and future generations of Americans will have an equal opportunity to vote,” said Himes. “As a supporter of this bill, I will do everything I can to get it passed into law, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to act swiftly to restore the Voting Rights Act.”
In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA, the formula that compelled specific states with a history of voting discrimination to clear their voting changes with the federal government under Section 5. This had the effect of allowing states with this history of discrimination to change their voting laws to make it more difficult to vote without federal preclearance until Congress drafts a new formula for Section 4.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act represents a bipartisan compromise to restore the VRA in five ways, by:
- Drawing a new coverage formula for Section 4 so that states with five violations of federal law to their voting changes over the past 15 years must submit future election changes for federal approval;
- Strengthening Section 3 of the VRA to make any violation of the VRA or federal voting rights law grounds for a bail-in, which will make it easier to cover new states;
- Mandating that jurisdictions in all 50 states must provide notice in the local media and online of any election procedures related to redistricting, changes within 180 days of a federal election, and the moving of a polling place;
- Making it easier to seek a preliminary injunction against a potentially discriminatory voting law; and
- Reaffirming that the Attorney General can send federal observers to monitor elections in states subject to Section 4 and expanding their authority to send observers to states with a history of discrimination against language majorities.
Dear Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and Chairman Goodlatte:
In the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder last year, Chief Justice Roberts expressly acknowledged the persistence of voter discrimination and challenged Congress to formulate an updated coverage formula to protect against it. H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act, is a bipartisan bill that would restore the safeguards of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in a manner consistent with the Shelby County decision. Some of us believe the bill should be enacted in its current form, and some of us would prefer to see it amended. But all of us stand united in our desire for the House to consider the issue in time for the entire Congress to work its will before the August break.
In that spirit, we ask that the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on this legislation and proceed toward a markup with full confidence that any legislation passed out of the committee will be considered on the House floor. We stand ready to work with you to move the bipartisan bill to the floor expeditiously. We are confident that any bill passed by the House would be swiftly passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President.
While we differ in our views on the ideal response to Shelby County, we all hope to join you in building on the bipartisan agreement that has been reached to ensure that, as President Ronald Reagan said, “no barrier will come between our citizens and the voting booth.”