Biden DOJ Throws Strong Support Behind Passing Voting Rights Act


At a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was held after the introduction of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in the Senate, assistant Attorney General for civil rights Kristen Clarke spoke in favor of the monumental proposal. The bill, if made law, would re-establish so-called pre-clearance requirements, as were included in the original Voting Rights Act of 1965. These requirements demanded pre-approval by federal authorities before the implementation of certain changes to the conducting of elections, with the hope of stopping at least certain iterations of voter suppression before they began. The Supreme Court nullified the original provisions in a 2013 ruling.

More recently, Republicans in positions of state-level leadership around the country have sought to impose suppressive new restrictions on the electoral process, despite the absence of any legitimate evidence of systematic election integrity problems in the United States. The restrictions that these Republicans have pushed have at times been draconian. Clarke commented as follows:

‘Recently, there’s been a resurgence in attacks on voting rights, including cuts to early voting periods, burdensome restrictions to register or vote, racially gerrymandered redistricting plans, polling sites eliminated or consolidated in communities of color, eligible voters purged from the rolls, and more. I am here today to sound an alarm. For the Justice Department, restoring and strengthening the Voting Rights Act is a matter of great urgency.’

Clarke subsequently noted some of the historical context for the original pre-clearance requirements, including how federal officials were able to stop thousands of suppressive, election-related moves from going into effect — a majority of which, she explained, came with evidence of discriminatory intent. The requirements, Clarke noted, also “deterred” certain jurisdictions from undertaking aggressive moves that were likely to be blocked.

Clarke added as follows:

‘Today, jurisdictions that want to restrict voting rights have what the Supreme Court memorably described as the advantage of time and inertia. These new laws can be challenged only through long, protracted, resource-intensive, case-by-case litigation, which we have pursued in states like Texas and North Carolina.’

Watch Clarke’s remarks below:

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act still has a substantial hurdle to cross: the Senate’s filibuster rules. At present, these rules demand the agreement of at least 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber before moving forward, including to a final vote, on most bills. Changing the filibuster rules would apparently require the consent of at least a simple majority of the chamber, but with (at least) two Democratic holdouts in support of the filibuster — Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — that’s difficult. Still, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who’s helping push a companion piece of voting rights legislation known as the Freedom to Vote Act, has said that Democrats will “go to the procedures if we need to” — meaning examine potential changes to the filibuster rules.