Philadelphia, PA - On the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) urged action to fix the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act decision today during a press conference at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. Senator Casey also raised concerns about Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law and highlighted the need to protect every American’s right to vote.
“Today, we remember one of the proudest days in our Nation’s history, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared his dream for a better America. 50 years later, we restore our commitment to justice, especially in the face of new challenges such as Voter ID laws and the Supreme Court’s decision gutting a key section of the Voting Rights Act,” said Senator Casey. “While these developments may test us, with vigilance and perseverance we will overcome these obstacles on the path to justice. Together, our progress will continue, and we will one day realize Dr. King’s dream in which all Americans have an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”
In June, Senator Casey called on Congress to expedite consideration of legislation that would reinstate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Casey discussed Section 4’s history of success and the need to enact strong laws that protect Americans’ right to the vote.
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
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