Court’s Decision Dismantled Key Element of Cherished U.S. Civil Rights Law
Washington DC- After a ruling by the Supreme Court gutted one of the country’s most cherished civil rights laws, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on Congress to expedite consideration of legislation that would reinstate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Today, Casey discussed Section 4’s history of success and the need to enact strong laws that protect Americans’ right to the vote.
“The Supreme Court’s decision was a blow to equal access to the vote,” Senator Casey said. “I’m calling on Congress to immediately come together on a plan that would restore voter protections and ensure all Americans have equal protections when it comes to voting. In 2006, Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in a nearly unanimous fashion. It’s time for Congress to come together in that same bipartisan spirit and fix this egregious ruling. Countless Americans fought and some died to secure the protections in the Voting Rights Act. We can’t just honor those courageous actions in words, we must also come together to make sure those protections are a staple of our laws.”
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below
June 28, 2013
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy The Honorable Harry Reid
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary Majority Leader, United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senators Leahy and Reid:
I write regarding the United States Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Shelby County v. Holder. Like you I was extremely disappointed with this decision, and I urge you, in your capacities as Majority Leader and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to take swift action to restore the Voting Rights Act and ensure every voter is protected.
For decades, the Voting Rights Act has protected the right of every American to vote. Since the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, the federal government has played a role in safeguarding citizens’ access this right. On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was enacted into law and further strengthened the right of all citizens to vote. There have been multiple reauthorizations of the VRA, most recently in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support, with the Senate voting 98-0 to reauthorize the Act. As you know, the 2006 reauthorization was based on an extensive review of the current state of voting rights and the continued need for legislation to prevent modern discriminatory practices, such as Voter ID laws.
As you know, on June 25 the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Shelby County which invalidates the coverage formula established by Section 4, incapacitating the preclearance requirements of Section 5. The Court argued that the 2006 reauthorization was based on “decades-old” data and did not reflect the current state of voting rights in the U.S. While we have made significant progress as a Nation, it is simply not the case that the protections of Sections 4 and 5 are no longer needed. In fact, since 2000, the Department of Justice has objected to proposed changes to state and local election laws seventy-four times, with ten objections taking place in 2012 alone.
We should not allow the successes of the VRA to be used to justify stripping the very provisions that allow for effective protection of the rights it guarantees. It is now the responsibility of Congress to pass legislation that will enable enforcement through Section 5 and continue to secure the right to vote to all of our citizens, regardless of race, national origin or language.
Equal access to the ballot is a bedrock principle of our Nation that must not be violated. I look forward to working with you to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act. Thank you for your consideration of my views on this important matter.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator