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SCOTUS Guts Key Provision in Voting Rights Act, Congress Must Act to Fix

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court’s activist decision striking down a section of the Voting Rights Act that dictates which jurisdictions need federal approval before changing their voting laws threatens to make second-class citizens out of millions of Americans and must be answered with quick, bipartisan action on Capitol Hill, Common Cause said today.

“The only good news in this ruling is that Congress has the power to fix it, and fix it fast,” said Jenny Flanagan, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “We all recognize the paralysis on Capitol Hill. But the extraordinary bipartisan action that reauthorized this legislation in 2006 proves it can be done. ”

“It should not be difficult, or controversial, to satisfy the constitutional requirements laid down by the court AND provide needed federal oversight of state laws that threaten the free and fair right to vote,” she added.

As recently as 2006, while considering the section of the law invalidated by the court today, Congress conducted more than 21 hearings with 90 witnesses and amassed a 15,000-page record documenting continuing discrimination against minority voters.

The Court’s decision today is strikingly out of touch and disregards the ongoing discrimination at the polls in states
with a track record of making it harder for certain groups of people to vote. “The case for strong federal action to protect voting rights remains intact,” Flanagan said.

While Congress and the President retain authority to protect voting rights in the states, this decision continues an unfortunate trend of this court to set aside history and precedents. “The Voting Rights Act is nearly 50 years old and has been reaffirmed repeatedly by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court four separate times until this morning. But with a burst of judicial activism that ignores its own precedents, the court’s majority has today set aside one of the law’s most important provisions.”

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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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