Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) is calling for immediate, bipartisan action in Congress to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling along partisan lines to toss Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  The Court said in the ruling that Congress needs to update the provision.

Section 4 essentially establishes the rules for states and municipalities to follow to ensure that no racial discrimination in voting practices takes place.  Section 5 requires states and municipalities with a prior history of racial discrimination, to obtain permission from the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes to voting rules or procedures.  Without Section 4, Section 5 becomes impossible to enforce.

“I call on my colleagues to come together and pass legislation which addresses the Supreme Court’s issues with the Voting Rights Act, and returns the still-needed oversight powers to the federal government.  There is still a need for equal access to the polls and adequate representation for every American – no matter the color of their skin, or their national origin.  In 2006, Congress voted overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion to renew the Voting Rights Act.  The world then is not so different from the world today – or the world to come.  We should be able to agree, yet again, the right to vote is sacred in our country and must be protected.  While the states who once trampled on the rights of African-Americans and other minorities may have improved over time, there is no reason to scrap the checks and balances which have worked for five decades.

“While this decision is unfortunate, it could be rendered moot if Congress acts.  While it may seem unlikely based on recent years, and the amount of pending issues facing our country which have gone unaddressed, I believe that most every Member of Congress believes everyone deserves the right to vote in a manner unhindered by any outside entities.  I have confidence that Congress will do the right thing and pass new legislation to re-install an updated Voting Rights Act and will do so promptly.”