Testimony on Importance of Strong Voting Rights Act

by Mollie Hailey // Published July 18, 2013

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder, both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate this week held committee hearings on what Congress can do to restore the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In Shelby County, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA as unconstitutional, holding that its formula can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting covered jurisdictions to preclearance under Section 5 of the VRA. The preclearance provision of Section 5 and the formula for preclearance laid out in Section 4 were widely held as the heart of the VRA, protecting the franchise for black voters as well as other minority citizens.

In order to provide their expertise for the hearings, being held July 17 and July 18, several organizations submitted testimony to the committees. FairVote's testimony focuses on the importance of establishing voting rules that are intrinsically fair rather than contextually fair; in particular, we propose statutory changes to make it easier for jurisdiction to adopt fair representation voting methods.

A number of other voting rights and electoral reform organizations submitted testimony as well. Following are links to testimony that will be updated as we receive additional information: 

These organizations outline the ways in which the Voting Rights Act forms an essential protection in defending and expanding the right to vote for voters of color, as well as language minorities. Several groups noted that, without Section 5's protections, communities of color in formerly covered jurisdictions are vulnerable to discriminatory voting changes, particularly at the local level, that will arise in jurisdictions now emboldened by the Supreme Court's Shelby County decision.

In addition, two of the witnesses this week were law professors Spencer Overton and Justin Levitt. Here are links to their testimony:

FairVote joins these diverse organizations and scholars in affirming the continuing necessity of the fully implemented Voting Rights Act, and we eagerly anticipate a speedy congressional response to restore - and indeed improve - this critically important piece of civil rights legislation.