Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement at today’s hearing on the Voting Rights Act.
Ranking Member Collins: Mr. Chairman, the right to vote is of paramount importance in a democracy, and its protection from discriminatory barriers has been grounded in federal law since the Civil War and, more recently, through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A Supreme Court decision called Shelby County will be mentioned many times today, but, it’s important to remember that, in that decision the Supreme Court only struck down one outdated provision of the Voting Rights Act — namely an outdated formula — based on decades-old data that doesn’t hold true anymore, describing which jurisdictions had to get approval from the Department of Justice before their voting rules went into effect. It’s important to point out that other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place, including Section 2 and Section 3.
Section 2 applies nationwide and prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or the ability to speak English. Section 2 is enforced through federal lawsuits just like other federal civil rights laws, and the United States and civil rights organizations have brought many cases to enforce the guarantees of Section 2 in court, and they may do so in the future.
Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act also remains in place. Section 3 authorizes federal courts to impose preclearance requirements on states and political subdivisions that have enacted voting procedures that treat people differently based on race in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. If a state or political subdivision is found by the federal court to have treated people differently based on race, then the court has discretion to retain supervisory jurisdiction and impose preclearance requirements on the state or political subdivision as the court sees fit until a future date at the court’s discretion. This means that such state or political subdivision would have to submit all future voting rule changes for approval to either the court itself or the Department of Justice before such rule changes could go into effect. As set out in the Code of Federal Regulations, “Under section 3(c) of the [Voting Rights] Act, a court in voting rights litigation can order as relief that a jurisdiction not subject to the preclearance requirement of section 5 preclear its voting changes by submitting them either to the court or to the Attorney General.”
Again, Section 3’s procedures remain available today to those challenging voting rules as discriminatory. Just a couple years ago, for example, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal issued an opinion in a redistricting case that required that City of Pasadena, Texas, to be monitored by the Justice Department because it had intentionally changed its city council districts to decrease Hispanic influence. The city, which the court ruled has a “long history of discrimination against minorities,” was required to have their future voting rules changes precleared by the Department of Justice for the next six years, during which time the federal judge “retains jurisdiction . . . to review before enforcement any change to the election map or plan that was in effect in Pasadena on December 1, 2013.” A change to the city’s election plan can be enforced without review by the judge only if it has been submitted to the U.S. Attorney General and the Justice Department has not objected within 60 days.
Voting rights are protected in this country, including in my own state of Georgia, where Latino and African-American voter turnout has soared. Between 2014 and 2018, voter turnout increased by double digits for both men and women in both of these communities. I invite my friends on this dais — particularly the ones from the great state of Georgia — to consider the data, which show that our state is diverse and politically engaged. Despite a certain candidate’s claim that she won an election that she, in fact, lost, and that “voter suppression is endemic” in Georgia, the facts disagree — and so do the values of Georgians and Americans. We are committed to ensuring the ballot box is open to all eligible voters. We are committed to making sure constitutional means are used to accomplish that. We are committed to protecting the value of every American’s voice by securing our elections from fraud. These are our priorities and our principles. I look forward to hearing from all our witnesses here today.