PROTECT FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO VOTE
(House of Representatives - February 14, 2013)

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[Page H509]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                   PROTECT FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO VOTE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from 
Texas (Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson) for 5 minutes.
  Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, this month the 
Supreme Court will hear arguments in Shelby v. Holder, a case that 
challenges the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. 
It is imperative that the Voting Rights Act be upheld in its entirety, 
for without it, a fundamental piece of our democracy will be out of 
reach for millions in this country.
  Mr. Speaker, I stand here after two decades, and I'm supposed to be 
standing here representing a district that has been altered twice. But, 
Mr. Speaker, I stand here representing a district that has been altered 
three times--that many times--in this last two decades. As we saw in 
the recent election, discrimination on the basis of race is a 
persistent reality throughout many localities in States protected by 
section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Without these protections, voters 
are at risk of losing their fundamental right to vote and to have that 
vote counted.
  The Voting Rights Act provides a remedy to protect voters, either by 
addressing actual instances of discrimination or by preventing 
discrimination from happening in the first place.

                              {time}  1040

  Section 5 provides localities the opportunity to prove that they are 
fully committed to ensuring everyone has the right to vote, and sets 
out clear criteria for doing so. In this way, section 5 of the Voting 
Rights Act encourages localities to establish fair voting practices, 
but demands real proof of the progress.
  I cannot tell you how many cases that come to the attention of the 
Justice Department, almost on a monthly basis, of discrimination in 
this area. The Constitution is unequivocally clear that the Congress 
has the authority to protect voters. That is why Congress spent so much 
time in 2006 reviewing all the data and hearing from all sides.
  The 2006 reauthorization was recognition that discrimination still 
exists but that Congress has a responsibility to ensure that every 
voter must continue to exercise their right.
  If every State would prove to the voters that they are willing not to 
discriminate, there would not be the need; but that has not happened. 
Even States not covered have had difficulty of allowing minorities to 
express themselves.
  Now, I have been a victim of discrimination through redistricting and 
cracking and packing and every other technique that can happen in 
redistricting. Mr. Speaker, until we, in this country, can guarantee 
that voters will be handled fairly, there is no way that we should be 
talking about doing away with section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

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