07.30.15

Ahead Of 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Leahy Calls On Congress To Restore And Advance This Landmark Law

“This should be a call to action, not just a history lesson.”

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 30, 2015) – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), author of the Voting Rights Advancement Act and a longtime champion of voting rights, joined House Democrats on Thursday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the original Voting Rights Act.  The landmark law ushered in strong protections against racial discrimination in voting, and Congress has reauthorized the measure four times since it was enacted in 1965. 

Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted core protections in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, paving the way for states and localities throughout the country to pass sweeping laws that disproportionately suppress the voting rights of minorities.  These laws have left voters without the protections they need to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would extend to all voters nationwide, and target certain voting practices known to suppress the voting rights of minorities.  The bill has broad support among grassroots organizations and Congressional Democrats, and each past reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act has had bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.  Leahy said it is disappointing that, this time, no Senate Republican has stepped forward to support the new Voting Rights Act measure or any efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee,
At Capitol Building Press Conference with House Democrats
On the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act
July 30, 2015

Nine years ago, I stood on these steps with members from both parties to introduce legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.  Then, both parties understood the continuing need for this fundamental law.  We got to work, and with overwhelming bipartisan support, we sent to a Republican president a strong bill that protected the right of all Americans to vote.

Two years ago, five justices on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act but they made clear that Congress has the power to restore its protections.

Since that court decision, I have worked to find Senate Republicans to join me to restore the Voting Rights Act.  I am stunned – and saddened -- that this effort is no longer bipartisan in the Senate. 

There are plenty of Republican Senators running for president, but not one wants to restore the Voting Rights Act.  They have walked away from what has always been a bipartisan effort and a bipartisan commitment to the foundational right to vote.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, this should be a call to action, not just a history lesson. Racial discrimination in voting still exists so we must RESTORE the time-honored and time-tested protections of the Voting Rights Act. 

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