Bipartisan Voting Rights Bill an Important First Step in Undoing Damage Done by Supreme Court in Shelby County: Statement of J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director
The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, introduced today by a bipartisan coalition of Members of Congress, represents an important first step to restoring and protecting the rights of all Americans to vote and make their voices heard in elections. Though this bill, as drafted, has some troublesome provisions, particularly the language providing certain exemptions for voter ID laws that are found to be discriminatory, and though greater protections are still needed to protect all Americans against discriminatory voting practices, it is heartening to see quick and bipartisan action by Congress to address this important subject. We look forward in the days ahead to working with Members on both sides of the aisle to improve the legislation.
The legislation does not restore all of the voting rights protections that were gutted by the Roberts’ Court in its Shelby County decision last June. Indeed, in the six months since the Shelby County case was decided, we have seen some blatantly discriminatory voting schemes arise in areas that were previously blocked from implementing voting changes without pre-approval. Nevertheless, this legislation is a clear indication that Congress recognizes the great harm done by a narrow majority of Supreme Court Justices and a strong signal that Members understand it is now their responsibility as the legislative branch to repair the damage done by the Court.
We especially commend Representatives James Sensenbrenner and John Conyers for their leadership on this legislation. We hope legislative leaders will give priority to this issue in 2014. The right to vote is the most important right we have as Americans.
- Hebert served more than two decades in the Department of Justice, where he served in many supervisory capacities, including Acting Chief, Deputy Chief, and Special Litigation Counsel in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division. Hebert has served as chief trial counsel in over 100 voting rights lawsuits, a number of which were ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. He has also taught courses on voting rights at Georgetown University Law Center and is widely recognized as one of the leading experts on voting rights.