Republicans push back against federal approval for changes in state voting laws

By: - June 30, 2021 4:45 am

Election workers process ballots at the Arapahoe County Elections Facility in Littleton, on Nov. 3, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

That preclearance formula was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2013 case, Shelby County v. Holder. 

The Republican argument during Tuesday’s hearing echoed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in the case, where he argued that voter suppression is not as prevalent today as it was in the 1960s and 1970s and “there is no longer such disparity.”

After that case, the Supreme Court instructed Congress to draft a new process to determine how the Voting Rights Act would monitor cities, counties and states based on current data, which Democrats are hoping to institute with H.R. 4. 

However, H.R. 4 does not undo any voting laws passed in those states with a history of enacting laws to suppress voters of color. 

H.R. 1 would undo some laws in Florida, Georgia and Texas, as well as tackle dark money in campaigns and election security.

‘No rampant discrimination’

One of the witnesses, Maureen Riordan, litigation counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, agreed with the GOP arguments. 

The foundation, a conservative group based in Indiana, pushes to purge voter rolls and focuses on voter fraud. Its president, J. Christian Adams, was tapped by former President Donald Trump to serve on his Election Integrity Commission in response to Trump’s baseless claim that there were 5 million illegal votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. 

“There is no rampant discrimination in voting,” Riordan said.

But the vice chairwoman of the Judiciary panel, Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) said that after the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act, her own state passed a voting law that disenfranchised African American voters. She said that while the courts overturned the law, it took three years for that litigation to end.  

“We need to stop voter suppression before it happens, not years afterwards,” she said. “Disenfranchised Americans cannot wait years for their rights to be restored.”

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.) asked Riordan what would happen if the Biden administration is successful in its lawsuit against Georgia’s new voting law. 

Riordan said that the Justice Department has asked for a preliminary injunction and if that is granted, then it will prevent the new law from going into effect. She added that if the DOJ won the case, then the new law would be quashed. 

“It sounds to me like a real invasion of the federal government into state elections,” Fischbach said.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) disputed Republicans’ argument that the federal government should not interfere in state and local elections. 

Bush said that Congress should be concerned by the several Republican-controlled states that “have gone out of their way, time and time again, to suppress Black voters.”

“Some of our colleagues can sit here and use coded language about states rights and the federal government, or we can call it what it is,” she said. 

“This is a conversation about one party’s intent and their ongoing white supremacist attempts to suppress the power of Black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized voters.”

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana Figueroa is a reporter in the Washington, D.C., bureau of States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit news outlets that includes Colorado Newsline.