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GOP's Got a Problem With Voting Rights | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

GOP's Got a Problem With Voting Rights

For years, leaders of the Republican Party and their amen corner in the media has been demanding to know why African-American voters so consistently support the Democratic Party.

Here's a thought:

When the U.S. House debated the "Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act" this month, the process was bogged down for weeks by objections from Republican members of the House who sought to eliminate some or all of the essential protections contained in the 41-year-old guarantee of equal protection for minority voters.

Even on the final day of debate on the measure, the House had to dispense with four amendments – all sponsored by Republicans -- that sought to undermine the scope and application of the Voting Rights Act.

None of the anti-voting rights amendments received as many as five Democratic votes.

All of the anti-voting rights amendments received at least 95 Republican votes.

One of the amendments – Iowa Representative Steve King's move to restrict and potentially eliminate the availability of ballots for Americans who do not speak English as their first language – gained 181 Republican votes.

A majority of House Republicans also voted for an amendment designed to make it easier for communities to "bail out" of Voting Rights Act requirements and for an amendment that sought to limit the number of years for which the act was reauthorized.

In the end, only 33 House members voted against the final reauthorization of the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act. But all of those votes came from Republicans, meaning that 15 percent of the House Republican Caucus opposed renewal of what civil rights pioneer and Georgia Congressman John Lewis told Congress was still very much needed to "reflect a commitment to equal protection under the law."

At the end of the day, a substantial proportion of House Republicans cast specific votes against maintaining the framework for protecting the rights of minority voters, while the vast majority of House Republicans backed steps that would have effectively gutted provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that make real the guarantee of equal protection under the law.

House Republicans did this despite calls for renewal of the act by every major civil rights group in the country, and appeals from their African-American, Latino and Asian-American colleagues. They did so despite the fact that academics and voting-rights experts echoed the assessment of Michigan Representative John Conyers, the senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, that: "The Voting Rights Act's) importance to opening the political process to all Americans is beyond doubt or challenge."

How will African-American voters respond to the House GOP's assault on what Conyers refers to as "the crown jewel of our civil rights laws"?Perhaps they will react as did Georgia Representative David Scott, one of the most moderate members of the current House, who said of his Republican colleagues: "Their goal has been one thing and one thing only: to kill the Voting Rights Act."

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