If the Republican Party still has hopes of reaching African American voters, the antics of GOP Republicans to slow down renewal of the Voting Rights Act can't help. As Reuters reports, renewal is likely dead for now:
Prospects for a swift renewal of the Voting Rights Act faded on Thursday as lawmakers called for new congressional hearings on the landmark civil rights law first approved in 1965.
The House leadership had expected an easy 25-year extension of the act last week but southern Republicans rebelled, objecting that their states would be subjected to special scrutiny based on the legacy of discrimination from the 1960s.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the civil rights activists who created the groundswell that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, tells Atlanta Progressive News that the arguments are suspect, like the claim of Southern politicians that the Act should cover all 50 states:
"That is an argument that came out in 1963, 1964, and 1965. If it's good enough for the Southern States, then it's good enough for all 50 states. But all 50 states don't have a problem. In New York, it might be a certain county," but the greatest trends of discrimination persist in the US South, Rep. Lewis said.
The idea that the Act discriminates is also undermined by two facts: First, the Department of Justice can at any time evaluate which states should or shouldn't be focused on for review.
Second is the reality that the two states which have enacted the most questionable redistricting plans impacting black and Latino voters have been in Voting Rights Act states, Georgia and Texas. So as Lewis notes, the battle clearly isn't over:
"There's a long, rich history of gerrymandering, redistricting mid-census, done primarily for political reasons, to dilute power or influence of African Americans' votes in several Congressional districts," Rep. Lewis said.
The House still seems to be thinking about Latino voters, though. As the News reports,
Last night, the US House defeated an amendment which would have stripped the VRA of requiring funds for the USDOJ to ensure multilingual ballots and multilingual elections assistance, Rep. Lewis told Atlanta Progressive News.
"I call that a modern day literacy test," Rep. Lewis said, adding it was voted down by all Democrats plus 61 Republicans.