Some were hopeful that even after the Supreme Court absolutely gutted the Voting Rights Act by removing the preclearance provision, there was still a chance that Congress would rectify the law, like the justices intended. But after the pandering of happy talk was exhausted by members of the right, who came to understand that fixing the Voting Rights Act would effectively be a loss for Republicans in upcoming elections, it’s looking unlikely that a fix will happen:
“Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call.
A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”
At issue is the Voting Rights Act’s now-invalid Section 4, the formula used to determine which state and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws. It was last reauthorized in 2006 by a 98-0 margin in the Senate and 390-33 in the House. But for Republicans, there’s a huge difference between allowing the renewal of a historic law for racial equality, and going out their way to reconstitute it now that the Supreme Court has thrown out part of it.
“Historically I fully understand why they addressed the situations they did,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), chairman of the Judiciary Constitution and Civil Justice subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the issue, told reporters. “I am just of the opinion today that we should do as the court said and that is to not focus on punishing the past but on building a better future.”
There are some practical issues at play here too — many of the new jurisdictions that would be included in the revamped preclearance formula would fall within conservative dominated regions. But perhaps the best explanation for why Republicans won’t lift a finger to save the VRA is that without the preclearance provision, red states — already exemplified by Texas and North Carolina — have nothing standing in their way when they enact harsh laws that make it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote. Republicans are now also able to gerrymander their districts in ways that alienate minority populations.
Some, like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) knew which way the wind blowed as soon as SCOTUS delivered its ruling, “[a]s long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance.”
In the end, it’s all about race. Republicans can’t get the minority vote, and so they’d rather eliminate the minority vote all together — it’s really not that complicated. We’ll either have to wait for a Democrat controlled House and Senate — which won’t happen for the foreseeable future thanks to gerrymandering — or for the issue to be reconsidered in the Supreme Court.
Until then, get used to some good old fashioned racial discrimination.
(Photo: get-out-the-vote party, Smith Park, Jackson Mississippi – 2008, by NatalieMaynor)