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Voting Rights Act Gains Traction
2/13/2014 11:39:17 AM

Staff Reports

On the heels of the introduction of a congressional amendment responding to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating critical parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the South Carolina ACLU gave testimony last week at a hearing convened by the National Commission on Voting Rights held in Columbia. The hearing was the third in a series of national hearings held to collect testimony on the current landscape of voting and elections.

Last month a bipartisan group of legislators that included Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced the introduction of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The bill responds to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby Co. v. Holder that invalidated the formula that determined which jurisdictions are subject to the Voting Rights Act preclearance requirement.

ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Deborah Vagins said while the bill is not perfect and doesn’t fix everything lost in Shelby v. Holder, it does answer the Supreme Court’s invitation for Congress to modernize the Voting Rights Act and includes common sense updates.

The bill includes a preclearance formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent egregious records requiring voting changes be preapproved in addition to other provisions and enhanced ability for plaintiffs to obtain preliminary injunctive relief.

The ACLU has pressed for changes in South Carolina voting laws that would increase access for all voters and fought against voter suppression measures that disenfranchise eligible voters, said S.C. ACLU Executive Director Victoria Middleton.

Testimony given last week in Columbia continues the organization’s efforts to ensure all South Carolinians have the ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote, she said. Middleton noted the ACLU’s participation in a legal challenge to the 2012 S.C. Voter ID Law.

Feb. 6 South Carolina ACLU Legal Director Susan Dunn testified that the ACLU after monitoring elections since the S.C. Voter ID law was implemented January 2013 has found some confusion to the law although it had no challenges.

Middleton said the proposed congressional amendment likely will not affect midterm elections slated for 2014, but added that people need to be aware of the the legislation’s progress.

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