Senate Judiciary Dems Demand Hearing On Voting Rights

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have a message for their Republican counterparts, who are leading the blockade on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee: If you care so much about giving America a voice, give us a hearing on voting rights!

The nine Democrats on the committee sent a letter Friday to its Republicans leaders — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chair of its subcommittee on the Constitution — demanding a hearing on voting rights, which the committee has not hosted since the GOP took over the Senate. They pointed to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act and the electoral and legal chaos that has ensued since. But they also used the letter to call out the same Republicans for refusing to grant Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing.

“It is ironic that Senate Republicans would claim to give the American people a voice, but at the same time allow sweeping voting restrictions to be enacted that would silence many of these Americans – a disproportionate number of whom are minorities,” the letter said.

The letter noted that when Democrats controlled the committee, then-Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) held nine hearings on voting rights, in addition to the three voting rights hearings held by the subcommittee on the Constitution, which was then chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

“However, since taking over the majority last January, Republicans have held no hearings to examine voting rights,” the letter said.

It pointed out that November’s election will be first presidential election since the 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which dismantled the provision in the Voting Rights Act that required certain states get changes to their voting policies approved by federal officials.

“Since the Shelby County decision, elected officials in several states have enacted voting laws that disproportionately prevent or discourage minorities from voting,” the letter said, pointing to the Texas voter ID law, which has been ruled against in two federal courts, and to Alabama’s voter ID law, which attracted scrutiny after the state close many of its DMVs.

The letter also brought up the chaotic primary election in Arizona, where a change in its voting system that pre-Shelby would have needed federal approval caused five-hour-long lines at some polling places.

“There is strong evidence that the voting changes implemented after the Shelby County decision are having a negative impact,” the letter said.

Read the full letter below:

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