Congressman Cohen Presides at Voting Rights Act Hearing

June 25, 2019
Press Release
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams testifies

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, presided over a hearing on “Continuing Challenges to the Voting Rights Act Since Shelby County v. Holder.” The Act, repeatedly reauthorized on a bipartisan basis, most recently in 2006, was undermined by the 2013 ruling in the Shelby County case. The Act has not been reauthorized since the ruling because bipartisan support has evaporated.

In his opening statement Chairman Cohen said:

“The right to vote is the most fundamental right of citizenship in our democracy. Yet for most of our Nation’s history, too many of our citizens, and particularly African Americans, were denied this right, especially in the Deep South.

“On August 6, 1965, our Nation took a momentous step towards correcting that injustice when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. The VRA was the result of years of efforts by the Civil Rights Movement, led by heroes like our colleague Representative John Lewis of Georgia, to get Congress to act on protecting voting rights for African Americans. I fear, however, that developments over the last several years have undermined the Act’s basic protections.

“That is because six years ago today, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court effectively suspended the Act’s Section 5 preclearance requirement by striking down the coverage formula in Section 4 that determined which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance…

“The Supreme Court was wrong to undermine the Voting Rights Act. Congress must now respond.”

See the full opening statement here and Congressman Cohen’s questioning of witnesses here.

Witnesses at today’s hearing were:

  • Stacey Abrams, Founder and Chair, Fair Fight Action and a 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate;
  • Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law;
  • Kyle Hawkins, Solicitor General of Texas; and
  • Leah Aden, Director of Litigation, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.