By Greg Sargent
Speaking over the weekend at the 50th anniversary of civil rights clashes at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, President Obama called on Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court weakened in 2013 when it invalidated a key provision requiring the federal government to sign off on local voting changes in states with a history of discrimination.
Politico reports that in coming weeks, Democrats hope to pressure Republicans to agree to proposed legislative reforms that would plug the hole in the VRA resulting from the Court’s ruling:
Democrats believe they could easily pass these bills in Congress with a bipartisan majority, if only the Republican leadership would let them come up for votes.
But could a voting rights fix actually pass the House with a bipartisan majority? I put the question to David Wasserman, who closely tracks House races and districts for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. His answer: Maybe, but only a minority of House Republicans would likely vote for it, and in any case, it is unlikely to get a vote in the House anytime soon — largely because of the makeup of the House GOP majority.
The most prominent proposed fix to the VRA is the bill offered by GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner and Dem Rep. John Conyers, which would restore some federal oversight over states and localities that take steps that reduce minority voting rights. In striking down the core of the the VRA on the grounds that its formula for determining federal monitoring is out of date due to racial progress, the Court called on Congress to set a new formula. But it hasn’t acted to do so. Meanwhile, proponents of local voting restrictions immediately seized on the ruling to move forward with such initiatives, and voting rights advocates are still hopeful Congress will restore VRA protections, arguing that such restrictions disenfranchise minority voters.
But it’s unlikely to happen. There’s no incentive for House Republicans to act.
SB Note: It’s our responsibility to give the House of Representatives a reason to act! call or write your Congressperson today! If you don’t know who represents YOU go here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/