04.26.16

Comment of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Federal District Court Decision Upholding North Carolina’s Restrictive Voting Law

[On Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina upheld North Carolina’s sweeping voting law, which the State enacted following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which weakened the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965North Carolina’s restrictive voting law includes a strict photo ID requirement, reduces the number of days for early voting, eliminates same-day registration and voting, prohibits citizens from casting ballots outside their precinct, and eliminates pre-registration for those under 18 years of age.  Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is the lead author of the Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and expand protections against racial discrimination in the Voting Rights Act.]

“I strongly disagree with the federal district court’s ruling to uphold North Carolina’s sweeping voting law that makes it harder for thousands of North Carolinians to vote.  The law has an especially harmful and disproportionate impact on the state’s black and Hispanic voters.

“Yesterday’s District Court decision follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous opinion in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, when five Republican-appointed justices gutted critical protections in the Voting Rights Act.  The very next day after the Supreme Court’s harmful ruling, the Republican-controlled North Carolina state legislature exploited a weakened Voting Rights Act by pushing through the most sweeping voting law in recent memory.  These voting restrictions likely would have been prevented if the Voting Rights Act remained at full strength, as Congress intended when it reauthorized that fundamental civil rights law in 2006.  Yesterday’s lower court decision is all the more reason why we must convene hearings and pass the bipartisan Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that I introduced in the Senate, to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

“This decision, which I hope will be reversed on appeal, may very well end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Without nine justices, however, the Court could again deadlock and be unable to fully serve its Constitutional function.  This is yet another reason why the Senate must hold hearings and vote on the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.”

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