House to hold hearing on Voting Rights Act

House Republicans have scheduled their first hearing on the Voting Rights Act for Thursday, following a June ruling by the Supreme Court overturning a key provision of the civil rights law.

The hearing, to be held by the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, comes a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the law for the first time since the ruling.

The 5-4 decision found that Congress had not appropriately considered the nation's racial progress when signaling out a set of states that required preclearance from the federal government before making any changes to election or voting laws. The states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as parts of seven other states — were selected by a congressionally mandated formula examining past history of voting rights abuses.

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But the court ruled applying that decades-old standard was no longer appropriate, and if Congress wanted to continue the preclearance process, it needed to update its formula for targeting jurisdictions.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the decision.

House leaders have said publicly that they want to work to update the formula.

“I’m hopeful Congress will put politics aside … and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said last month.

But the hearing — which will be overseen by the subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice — suggests that Republicans may not be particularly interested in moving a revised formula forward. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who, according to MSNBC, was one of only 33 Republicans to have voted against the Voting Rights Act when it was last authorized.

The Senate, by contrast, will hold their hearing before the full Judiciary Committee, and is expected to hear testimony from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon.