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Regarding Supreme Court Decision in Shelby County vs. Holder

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, decided this past Tuesday, the justification relied upon by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act today essentially comes down to this: ``Times change.'' Chief Justice Roberts is right, times have changed. What he neglects to add is that the change is due almost entirely to the existence and vigorous enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

In the same way that the vaccine invented by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1953 eradicated the crippling effects but did not eliminate the cause of polio, the Voting Rights Act has succeeded in stymying the practices that resulted in the wholesale disenfranchisement of African Americans in the southern region of our country but not in eliminating the motivations underlying them. And that is why the vaccine of the Voting Rights Act is needed as much today as Dr. Salk's vaccine is needed to prevent another polio epidemic.

In his opinion, the Chief Justice applauds this remarkable progress brought about by the Voting Rights Act and concludes it was so successful in preventing the states with the worst and most egregious records of voter suppression, intimidation from disenfranchising minority voters that those States should no longer be subject to the federal supervision responsible for the success he celebrates.

But in a record exceeding 15,000 pages in length compiled after holding 21 hearings and receiving testimony from more than 150 witnesses, Congress carefully and meticulously documented why the covered States could not yet be trusted to refrain from a return to their days of shame. And because of Section 5, they could not do so even if they tried.

Without Section 5, Congress recognized that many of the advances of the past decades could be wiped out overnight with new schemes and devices, such as the mid-decade redistricting conducted in my home State of Texas, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in part in LULAC v. Perry, 546 U.S. 399 (2006) or the attempt to eliminate the North Forest Independent School District in my congressional district.

I call upon the leadership of the Congress and President Obama to follow the example of their predecessors during the 109th Congress and begin immediately to work together to come up with the legislative remedy needed to repair the damage caused by the Supreme Court's misreading of history and disregard of its own settled precedents when it comes to Congress's power to protect the right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment.

While the Congress works to come up with the pre-clearance legislative fix, the administration in the meantime should begin redirecting its resources to wage the many ``post-clearance'' battles that lay ahead.


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