CAPITOL HILL (VOA)— A number of Democratic lawmakers, several of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus, say they are disappointed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidates one section of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court said that it is up to Congress to update a provision that sets the formula for which states and localities must make changes in voting procedures.
Members of the Congress expressed frustration, sadness and anger in the wake of Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.
“The right to vote is a fundamental American value, and yet, minorities face long lines at the polls and are constant targets of right-wing voter suppression tactics,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “Today is a sad day for our democracy.”
The high court said one section of the law relies on 40-year-old data that does not reflect current realities. Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who was brutally beaten during a march for voting rights in 1965, says voting rights protections are still very much needed today.
“Today the Supreme Court stuck a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Lewis. “They are saying in effect that history cannot repeat itself, but I say, ‘come and walk in my shoes.'”
“The U. S. Supreme Court’s decision today in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder was a major setback to ensuring one of the most fundamental rights given to citizens in our democracy, the right to vote,” said Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. “I am deeply disappointed in the Court’s ruling today and I believe it is out of step with the needs and realities of our nation’s electoral system.”
Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge pointed out that there were 22 new laws proposed in 2012 to restrict voting rights. Some of them involved requiring voters to show photo identification. She said she believes the provision calling for some states to be closely monitored should be expanded, not struck down.
Reaction from those who may support the Supreme Court decision was muted and cautious. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had not yet had a chance to read the Supreme Court majority opinion.
“But I would say I do think America is very different today from what it was in the 1960’s,” said McConnell.
Republican Congressman Todd Rokita of Indiana said he believes the ruling is an affirmation of the great strides the United States has made as a nation.
The Supreme Court said it is now up to Congress to update the formula for pre-clearance for changes to voting rights laws. Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of California called on members of Congress to come together to do the right thing.
“I urge every member of Congress, regardless of party, to join us in ensuring that the Voting Rights Act remains the pillar of democracy that it has been since its inception,” said Chu.
Some analysts expressed skepticism that in particular the Republican-led House of Representatives, which last week was not able to approve the normally routinely-passed Farm Bill, will be able to take bipartisan action on redrafting the Voting Rights provision.
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