While South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has called for updating the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in a way that it will impact all states equally, he is opposing a proposed bill that only applies the law to states with violations over the past 15 years, The Huffington Post says
A new push in Congress to restore the act is being led by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and long-serving Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the Post said, noting support from the GOP, however, remains slim.
The Voting Rights Amendment Act in the House would update the formula to prescribe which states should be more deeply scrutinized for voting rights violations and would require "uniform transparency" in communities to explain voting law changes, the Post added.
"The VRA is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed," Sensenbrenner said. "Our legitimacy as elected officials relies on the integrity of the ballot box. I urge my colleagues to support the VRAA because it is vital to our commitment to never again allow racial prejudices in the electoral process."
The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down Section 4 of the act, which said states and areas with a history of suppressing the votes of minorities were required to seek Justice Department permission before making changes to their own voting laws.
Scott, who the Post noted is among two African-American Senate members, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that he would support a bill that did not punish a state's history on the issue. He said some Southern states were unfairly targeted over violations that happened decades ago.
"What I would support is, take a second view at the Voting Rights Act, and see how we can apply it universally to all Americans, every place, and let's judge people and states based on their performance today and not 40 or 50 years ago," he said.
The Post noted, however, that this is exactly what the newly proposed legislation would seek to do.
In the wake of the historic march by lawmakers and civil rights advocates in Selma last weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, some said they hope it will renew interest by lawmakers in updating the Voting Rights Act, the Seattle Times reported
More than 100 members of Congress attended the march from both parties, and such bipartisan spirit is needed to create an updated law, some activists told the Seattle Times.
"Commemoration requires legislation," said Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights CEO Wade Henderson in a statement. "Selma isn't just a photo op. It's a solemn remembrance of the blood, sweat, tears and lives that went into securing voting rights for racial minorities in this country."
Scott, however, said Selma and voting rights ought to be "decoupled."
He said: "We ought to have an experience that brings people together and not make it into a political conversation."
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