H.R. 3899: The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed and is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process. It began a healing process that ameliorated decades of discrimination and helped distinguish a democracy that serves as an example for the world. Free, fair, and accessible elections are sacrosanct, and the right of every legal voter to cast their ballot must be unassailable. The VRA broke from past attempts to end voter discrimination by requiring federal preclearance of changes to voting laws in areas with documented histories of discrimination. There is no acceptable remedy for an unfair election after the fact. Section 5 of the VRA was the only federal remedy that could stop discriminatory practices before they affected elections.
Shelby County vs. Holder severely weakened the election protections that both parties have fought to maintain. The Court disregarded years of work by Congress. In a 5-4 decision, the Court eliminated the VRA’s formula for determining which areas are covered by section 5. The result is that the preclearance requirement remains, but it no longer applies anywhere except in the handful of locations currently subject to a court order. By striking down Section 4, the Court presented Congress with both a challenge and a historic opportunity. We are again called to restore the critical protections of the act by crafting a new formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent evidence of discrimination.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act is bipartisan, bicameral, and compliant with the Supreme Court's ruling. I am confident that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can work together to ensure Americans' most sacred right is protected. Voter discrimination still exists, and our progress toward equality should not be mistaken for a final victory.
Op-Eds by Congressman Sensenbrenner:
7/31/13 USA Today: Unbending commitment to voting rights
2/11/14 Wall Street Journal: A Revised Voting Act Is Still Needed
3/20/14 USA Today: Protect our right to vote
7/17/13 Roll Call: Voting Rights Act Puts GOP in Pickle
7/17/13 The Hill: Lawmakers Lewis, Sensenbrenner urge Congress to restore Voting Rights Act
7/17/13 The Associated Press: Sensenbrenner: New voting rights should be passed before the 2014 Congress elections
7/17/13 National Journal: Congress Takes First Steps Toward Revisions to Voting Rights Act
7/18/13 The Associated Press: Political Odd Couple Together Again on Voting Law
9/2/13 The Hill: Opinion: Sensenbrenner an unlikely GOP champion of the Voting Rights Act
1/16/14 The Washington Post: The Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Now a bipartisan gang wants to put it back together.
1/16/14 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Sensenbrenner joins Democrats in writing new version of Voting Rights Act
1/16/14 CBS News: Lawmakers aim to restore Voting Rights Act
1/24/14 Los Angeles Times: Repairing the Voting Rights Act
6/26/13 Bipartisan Judiciary Members: Supreme Court acknowledges the Work of the Voting Rights Act is Not Complete
7/17/13 Sensenbrenner Testifies at Senate Hearing on Voting Rights Act
8/22/13 Sensenbrenner Reacts to Department of Justice Lawsuit over Voter ID
1/16/14 Sensenbrenner, Leahy & Conyers Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Introduction of Legislation to Restore the Voting Rights Act
3/5/14 Sensenbrenner Addresses Misconceptions about the VRAA