News / USA

    US Congress Revisits Voting Rights After Supreme Court Ruling

    People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013, to listen to oral arguments in the Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder voting rights case.
    People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013, to listen to oral arguments in the Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder voting rights case.
    Michael Bowman
    U.S. lawmakers are discussing how to ensure equal and unfettered access to the ballot box in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling striking down a key section of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.  
     
    Democratic Congressman John Lewis is a living civil-rights legend.  As a young man in 1965, he led a march from Selma, Alabama demanding an end to organized suppression of black voter registration, and an end to sometimes-deadly police repression. State law enforcement officers, some on horseback, all of them white, attacked the marchers with batons and tear gas.
     
    The incident shocked the nation.  

    Months later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits barriers that “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”
     
    Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton at a voter rights rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton at a voter rights rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
    x
    Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton at a voter rights rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
    Congressman John Lewis and Rev. Al Sharpton at a voter rights rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.
    Testifying this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Congressman Lewis noted that before 1965, many southern counties had black voter registration rates of less than one percent. Although the situation has vastly improved, Lewis says the battle is not over.
     
    “The deliberate, systematic attempt to make it harder and more difficult for many people to participate in the democratic process still exists to this very day," he said.
     
    Last month, the Supreme Court struck down the section of the Voting Rights Act that subjected states with the most flagrant histories of voter suppression to special scrutiny. Those states had needed federal approval to change election rules.
     
    The court ruled the criteria used to determine which states required added scrutiny were outdated, noting that much has changed since 1965.
     
    Now Congress may step in yet again.
     
    “People die in other parts of the world trying to obtain the right to have a free country with a free right to vote," said Democrat Patrick Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Americans should not be denied it by the application of local laws.”
     
    Recent years have seen efforts by some states to impose strict identification requirements to register to vote and cast ballots, which can disadvantage poorer and minority communities.  In Florida last November, long lines to vote were particularly acute in some predominantly-black areas.  Across the nation, challenges to the delineation of voting districts remain common.
     
    A legislative revisiting of the Voting Rights Act appears to have bipartisan support.

    “Congress is now presented with a challenge and a historic opportunity," said Republican James Sensenbrenner, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "We are again called together to restore the critical protections of the [Voting Rights] act, by designing a new formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent and egregious voting records.  We know our work is not yet complete.”
     
    And there is much the Congress can do, according to Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, who notes the Supreme Court ruling does not preclude further legislative action.
     
    “It [the ruling] did not say we have fixed the problem of discrimination in voting," he said. "And it did not change the basic truth that the 15th Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] empowers Congress." 
     
    Ratified in 1870, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars denying a citizen the right to vote based on race or color.  It states that Congress shall have power of enforcement through legislation.   

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora