On Monday, the House Judiciary subcommittee held the last hearing on the Voting Rights Act and potential legislative reforms to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced over the weekend that the House will vote on the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 23.
Chair of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Committee Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-9) started the hearing by honoring the late Congressman John Lewis.
“Last month we marked the one year anniversary of his death,” Cohen said. “Let us not allow another anniversary to go by with the enactment of legislation that bears his name, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights, to carry forth what his life and goal was which was voting.”
The committee focused on reforming provisions of the VRA in response to the United States Supreme Court 2013 decision Shelby V. Holder which removed states previous requirement of preclearance before enacting new voting laws.
In his opening statement, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrod Nadler (NY-10) called out Texas and Georgia for pushing voter suppression legislation and judicial courts across the country for not stopping it.
“Congress must act where the court has failed voters across the country,” Nadler said.
The U.S Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke testified that she was there to sound an alarm on voting legislation.
“For the Justice Department restoration of the Voting Rights Act is a matter of great urgency,” Clarke said. “The Shelby County ruling has given a green light to jurisdictions to now adopt voting restrictions.”
According to Clarke, the DOJ has lost their power to stop voter suppression legislation since the Supreme Court decision.
In the hearing, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), who was arrested at the Capitol last month in a voting rights protest, said the fight for voting rights is about creating better access to the polls for all Americans.
“It is not about Black people only or Hispanic people only it is about voting rights and I’m saddened by my dear colleagues who have made this a race question,” Jackson said. “I rebuke that.”
On Tuesday, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act was officially introduced by Rep.Tori A. Sewell (AL-7) on the same Edmund Pettus Bridge Lewis nearly died in the fight for voting rights 56 years ago.
The battle on voting rights between Texas Democrats and Gov. Greg Abbott continues after Abbott called another special session this month.
But with many Texas Democrats still in D.C., the legislature doesn’t have enough members to make quorum.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.