Senate Dems push for voting rights bill

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) opened a press conference highlighting the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that will be introduced in Congress.

“This bill honors the legacy of John Lewis and those who marched and fought and died to protect the right to vote in America,” Durbin said.

Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also spoke, as well as activist organization leaders.

“The late Ruth Bader-Ginsburg was correct,” Warnock said, “when she said getting rid of preclearance is like getting rid of your umbrella in the middle of a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.”

The result of the referenced 2013 Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder, changed how the federal government can assess whether states are discriminating against voters.

As part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a formula was introduced that would clarify whether a state’s voting laws were racially discriminatory. If the formula dictated that a state was discriminating, the federal government could step in, change the laws and require preclearance for any further changes to state voting laws.

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court held the formula to be unconstitutional. The court asserted that the federal government imposing restrictions in state voting laws can only be justified by using current needs and argued since voting percentages had changed since the 1960’s, it was no longer necessary. This severed the federal government’s ability to qualify racial discrimination in state voting laws.

A CRS report summarizes the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2021, saying it establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices may take effect.

When asked if there were any changes in the bill introduced today from the previous version, Senator Durbin said that they have been “making changes to respond to Supreme Court decisions.”

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