[Extensions of Remarks]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
DOJ'S FAILURE TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS
HON. TERRI A. SEWELL
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in protest of
President Trump and his Justice Department's failure to protect
Americans' voting rights. The right to vote is a sacred right for which
Americans have fought for generations. From the battlefields of the
Revolutionary War, to the Women's Suffrage Movement, to Bloody Sunday
in my hometown of Selma, Alabama, Americans have risked their lives for
the right to vote.
Unfortunately, The Trump Justice Department recently decided to
dismiss their discriminatory purpose claim against Texas's voter ID
law. Texas's current draconian Voter ID law places harsh restrictions
on minorities and young voters. In 2013, the Department of Justice
filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas claiming that their voter
photo identification law, SB 14, violated Section 2 of the Voting
Rights Act. Since then, two courts have agreed that this law is
discriminatory. So it is incredibly disturbing that the new Department
of Justice reversed their position and withdrew their lawsuit. This
action represents a dramatic shift from the Obama Administration's
policy of protecting Americans' voting rights.
The American people deserve a Justice Department that values and
protects the right to vote. New barriers to voting are being erected
across the country, threatening the integrity of our electoral process
and our democracy. For example, after the Supreme Court struck down key
provisions of the Voting Rights Act, many states, like Alabama and
Texas responded to the Supreme Court's decision by imposing voter ID
laws similar to those of the Jim Crow era. These laws are blatantly
discriminatory, undemocratic, and un-American.
In Alabama, the state government passed a law requiring a photo ID
to vote while simultaneously closing 34 DMW offices. Doing so had a
discriminatory effect on 8 out of the 10 counties in Alabama with the
highest percentage of Black registered voters. Clearly we cannot yet
trust certain states to protect their citizens' right to vote. As
Americans, we should all be horrified of these laws and the Department
of Justice's failure to fight these regressive measures.
States must not be allowed to return to an era of mass-voter
discrimination, and historically, it has been the responsibility of the
Justice Department to protect Americans from new Jim Crow like laws.
Unfortunately, President Trump's Justice Department seems to be rolling
back this policy.
In 2015, I introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, legislation
that would require states with a recent history of voter discrimination
to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making any
changes to their electoral laws. Specifically, this bill will restore
Section 4(b) of the VRA which the Supreme Court invalidated in Shelby
County v. Holder. Under the new Trump Administration, it is more
important than ever that we pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and
have an independent Justice Department that is committed to protecting
Americans' right to vote.