Republican Urges Congressional Action on Voting Rights Act

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner vows to fight for new Voting Rights Act.


Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., testifies on the Voting Rights Act, which he intends to fix 'the monkey wrench the (Supreme) Court threw' in the law.

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It's a lonely place to be as a Republican, but Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., took a leap Monday and called for Congress to update the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights legislation that insured nondiscriminatory ballot box practices for nearly 50 years.

A core provision, a formula that determined which areas of the country received extra scrutiny when adjusting voting laws, was struck down by the Supreme Court in June.

[READ: Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Provision of Voting Rights Act]

Since then, voting rights groups have urged Congress to craft a new formula to hold some jurisdictions accountable, but lawmakers on Capitol Hill have yet to act.

Sensenbrenner, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, said Monday during a GOP meeting celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that he would make it a priority. The Washington Post first reported the story.

"The first thing we have to do is take the monkey wrench that the court threw in it, out of the Voting Rights Act, and then use that monkey wrench to be able to fix it so that it is alive, well, constitutional and impervious to another challenge that will be filed by the usual suspects," Sensenbrenner said.

As Republican-controlled state legislatures such as North Carolina pass restrictive voting laws, advocates warn the restoring the Voting Rights Act is as essential to ensuring fair elections as it has ever been.

But before Sensenbrenner spoke out, many Democratic lawmakers who had been staunch supporters of the provision had dismissed a restored Voters Rights Act as a pipe dream.

"As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don't have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a released statement after the Supreme Court struck the preclearance provision from the law.

Over the weekend civil rights leaders who attended the anniversary of the March on Washington urged Congress to get to work to preserve the Voting Rights Act.

[VOTE: Should Eric Holder Mandate Preclearance For Texas Despite the Supreme Court's Ruling?]

And a coalition of voting rights groups said they won't stop pushing for reform, which they believe is within reach.

They point to the success in 2006 when Republicans and Democrats worked together in a bipartisan fashion to pass an updated Voting Rights Act.

"Both Republicans and Democrats believe that we should have a free and electoral process and when racial discrimination occurs in the ballot box, that is an affront to our democracy," says Myrna Pérez, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice.

"We as a country made a promise that when someone walked into the ballot box, they would be able to cast a ballot without discrimination. It is that animating principle that will cause folks on both sides of the aisle to get together and come up with a new formula."

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