Cantor Set to Work With Democrats on Voting Rights Legislation

Friday, 09 Aug 2013 01:54 PM

By Melanie Batley

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has signaled he is looking to work with Democrats to draft new legislation that would replace provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by a Supreme Court ruling in June.

According to The Hill, the Virginia Republican intends to forge ahead with bipartisan talks for new anti-discrimination protections in spite of the GOP's overall disinterest in taking up the cause.

"We've had a one-on-one; it went very well," Georgia Democrat Rep. John Lewis told The Hill, adding that Cantor was interested in a legislative solution.

"We think there's a possibility we can do something in a bipartisan fashion . . . We're going to go together. That's what we did in 2006, and we'll do it again."

Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act stipulated that states with a history of racial discrimination were required to get federal approval before changing their election procedures, including changing districts, voting rules, and even polling locations. The law ultimately applied to nine states, most of which are in the South.

In the 5-4 landmark ruling, the high court said the formula for determining how the law applies is now outdated and therefore unconstitutional, effectively lifting decades-old restrictions on states to determine their own voting regulations.

The decision has left lawmakers with the responsibility of either accepting the repeal or finding a different method of determining which parts of the country are most likely to discriminate at the polls.

The decision was a set-back for the Obama administration which last year invoked Section 5 to stop Republican-backed voter-identification laws in Texas and South Carolina from going into effect, arguing the tougher rules were an attempt by Republicans to discourage minority voters from going to the polls.

At the time of the ruling Cantor said, "I'm hopeful Congress will put politics aside…and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected."

Since the ruling, Texas, North Carolina, and Alabama have adopted stricter voting requirements, according to The Hill, including new photo ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements, which conservatives argue are needed to fight voter fraud.

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