Vulnerable Republican backs voting rights bill

A vulnerable Illinois lawmaker has become the ninth Republican to sign on to legislation making a fix to the Voting Rights Act.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), a top Democratic target, is backing legislation that responds to the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County vs. Holder.

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The decision struck down a formula used by the Justice Department to determine whether local election law changes discriminated against minorities.

The new legislation would create a new formula based on recent voting rights violations, increase the transparency of voting rule changes, and expand preliminary relief to address potential violations ahead of an election.  

Dold praised the legislation in a statement, portraying the bill as the legacy of those who took part in the march on Selma, the landmark civil rights event that helped lead to the original passing of the Voting Rights Act. President Obama and a number of lawmakers commemorated the march’s 50th anniversary earlier this month.

“For the 50th anniversary of the marches, we should honor the courage and sacrifice of those who marched by passing the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015,” Dold said in a statement.

Dold’s decision to back the plan could play well in his Democratic-leaning district. He first won the seat in 2010, lost it to former Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) in 2012 and retook the seat in 2014.

The bill has strong support from Democrats, but it is not clear whether it will get a vote in this Congress.

While the Voting Rights Act had typically been reauthorized with bipartisan support, Congress hasn’t taken up any measures to address the Supreme Court decision. Many Republican critics of the Voting Rights Amendment Act have said that the framework still provides adequate relief and that any preclearance that singles out certain states is unfair.