Congressman Cohen Presides at Voting Rights Hearing
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today presided at a hearing on “The Need to Enhance the Voting Rights Act: Practice-Based Coverage.” The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would address the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling gutting preclearance rules that had required the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to review and approve changes to state laws affecting such issues as ID requirements and redistricting that could have a discriminatory effect.
In his opening statement Chairman Cohen said in part:
“As we will hear from some of our witnesses today, drawing from historical evidence, there is a strong relationship between certain voting laws and policies—such as strict voter identification requirements, the consolidation or relocation of polling locations, and changes to district or jurisdictional boundaries—and voting discrimination based on race, color, or language-minority status.
“Moreover, historical evidence demonstrates that when the percentage of the minority racial or ethnic population of a state or county reaches a certain tipping point, there is an increased likelihood that the jurisdiction will engage in a voting rights violation.
“That is, in areas where there is an emerging minority group that, at some point, grows large enough to threaten the existing, white-dominated power structure of the jurisdiction, the risk is greatly heightened that the white-dominated power structure will respond by trying to suppress the ability of members of the emerging minority group to vote.”
Witnesses at today’s hearing were:
- Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF);
- John Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC);
- Luis Fraga, Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C, Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, Director of the Institute for Latino Studies, and Fellow at the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame;
- Bernard Fraga, Associate Professor, Emory University;
- Franita Tolson, Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, and Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law;
- T. Russell Nobile, Senior Attorney, Judicial Watch, Inc.; and
- Bryan P. Tyson, Partner, Taylor English Duma LLP.