Reps. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerProtecting the fundamental right of all Americans to have access to the voting booth Republicans compare Ron Johnson to Joe McCarthy: NYT GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell MORE (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) are reintroducing their bill to restore part of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, despite warnings by prominent Republicans that they won’t support it.
The bill aims to revive a section of the Voting Rights Act that had required states with a history of racial discrimination to approve voting changes with the Justice Department. The Supreme Court overturned the formula in 2013, determining the criteria were outdated.
The proposed overhaul from Sensenbrenner and Conyers would create new criteria for “pre-clearance,” allowing courts to place states under that standard if they commit certain voting violations. The bill would also give the Justice Department more power to step in before an election takes place to protect voting rights.
Conyers, a sponsor of the original Voting Rights Act, called the Supreme Court decision “a critical blow” to the VRA’s “future relevancy” and one that will make it “more difficult to challenge existing barriers.”
“Though the Shelby County v. Holder decision struck at the heart of the Act, today, it is with much pride that my colleagues and I are reintroducing a renewed Voting Rights Amendment Act to reaffirm our constitutional commitment to protecting the right to vote.”
The Brennan Center for Justice said in a report released last year that the Shelby County decision has led to a number of localities previously covered by pre-clearance enacting voting rights changes that negatively impact Americans' right to vote.
"The year since Shelby County tells only the beginning of a story, but even that beginning points to the tools and accountability that have been lost, and the necessity that our lawmakers recover them," the report says.
While Sensenbrenner has been integral in whipping public support for Voting Rights Act reauthorizations over the years, most recently in 2006, he’s been unable to convince Republican leadership to hold hearings on the matter. Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteThe job of shielding journalists is not finished Bottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden MORE (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has repeatedly said that the remaining portions of the law provide ample protections and that a fix isn’t needed.
Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.), held a hearing on the issue in 2014, when he served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R-Iowa), the current Judiciary chairman, questioned the necessity of new Voting Rights Act legislation during that hearing.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Democrats make case to Senate parliamentarian for 8 million green cards Democrats to make pitch Friday for pathway to citizenship in spending bill MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, shared that skepticism last year and said that it's "unconstitutional" to subject some states to pre-clearance while not including others.
“If he thinks this provision is a good one, it should apply to Minnesota, it should apply to Vermont, it should apply to the entire country,” Cornyn said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “It imposes a presumption on guilt that is not borne out by the evidence.