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Voting Rights

Listening Session in Brownsville, TX

 

Listening Session on Voting Rights and Elections 

I chaired the House Administration Committee’s listening session on Voting Rights and Elections in Brownsville, Texas on February 8, 2019. Testimony given by a panel of experts with backgrounds in voting rights advocacy and civil rights law, confirmed what we already know – “the more things change, the more things stay the same.”  The progress made since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is stained by present-day suppression tactics meant to turn back the clock to the days of Jim Crow and overt denial at the ballot box.  We’ve come so far, but still have a long way to go. The listening session shows us now more than ever why preclearance is still needed.

Background: 

The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act while acknowledging the persistence of voter discrimination. Following the Court’s decision, which constructively eliminated preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act, hundreds of polling locations have been closed in Texas — significantly more in number and percentage than any other state. Additionally, the Texas Election Code only requires a 72-hour notice of polling location changes. These are just a few examples of the erosion of equal access to voting in Texas.

Congress has the power and responsibility to ensure that every American can exercise their franchise. Accordingly, the Committee on House Administration hosted this session and will host subsequent hearings to further develop the contemporaneous record of ongoing voter discrimination, address the Supreme Court’s concerns about the data supporting Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, and work toward the full implementation of Section 5.