Democrats in congress have introduced a bill to restore much of what the Supreme Court had taken away when they gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act last year. However, despite bipartisan support, the legislation may still face an uphill battle.
New, highly restrictive voter ID laws were among the openly admitted efforts Republicans hoped would help them win elections. Within hours of the 2013 SCOTUS decision, Texas, Kansas, Arizona, and other previously restricted states began changing their laws and making it harder to vote. However, even with the VRA gutted, states like Pennsylvania still found efforts to restrict access to the polls banned by the courts.
The legislation to restore the muscle to the VRA has put Republicans in a risky political position. If they support restoring anti-discrimination rules, they risk losing voter suppression gains on the local level. If they don’t, charges that they are trying to rig elections may backfire badly.
As Salon notes:
In 2012, the GOP’s vote suppression tactics may have backfired by increasing minority voter determination and forcing Democrats to improve their GOTV (Get Out the Vote) operation. Pocket vetoing the VRA patch would invite the same dynamic.
In addition to strict voter ID laws, early voting hours and same-day voter registration have been cut, and some polling locations have been closed or moved to more inaccessible locations in dozens of Republican-controlled states, including battleground Florida. None of those actions addressed alleged in-person voter fraud during the 2012 election season, but they did create long lines and discourage voting.
In fact, there is no physical evidence to suggest that rampant in-person voter fraud ever existed in the first place.
Despite bipartisan support, among the rank-and-file, House Speaker John Boehner may refuse to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. According to Roll Call, “The effort does not yet have full buy-in from Republican leadership.”
Voting is fundamental to a healthy democracy. Yet, there is no guarantee that the current congress will take legislative action to defend either.