Two House GOPers join Dems urging high court to uphold Voting Rights Act

Two House Republicans joined several of their Democratic colleagues Friday in a brief urging the Supreme Court not to overturn a section of the Voting Rights Act.

It's the first brief members of Congress have filed in the voting rights challenge, which is among the highest-profile cases in the court's current term. And it lends a hint of bipartisanship to an issue that has so far fallen largely along familiar battle lines.

Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) broke with Republican state officials Friday to support the Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments this month in the challenge to Section 5 of the historic legislation. That section requires states with a history of racial discrimination to get permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws.

"This record shows Section 5 not only worked to correct past injustices, but is unmistakably central to the continued protection of minorities’ right to vote in covered districts," Sensenbrenner said in a statement. "I am proud of this law, and join my colleagues in ardently defending its constitutionality.”

The provision was designed to protect the rights of minorities, but some conservatives question whether it's still necessary in a changing electoral landscape. The court signaled its own doubts about the provision in an earlier case.

The lawmakers who filed the brief served on the House Judiciary Committee in 2006, when the Voting Rights Act was last reauthorized.

"During the reauthorization process, the House Judiciary Committee conducted 12 hearings, received testimony from 46 witnesses and compiled an extensive record to support its conclusion that Section 5 should be reauthorized," Chabot said. "Consequently, I urge the Supreme Court to defer to the judgment of Congress and uphold this important provision in its entirety.”