Support of Voter ID Law Affirmed; High Court Ruling on Civil Rights Era Standards Reviewed

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Democrats and Republicans vowed this week to work together in rewriting the Voting Rights Act after last month's Supreme Court decision punctured the iconic civil rights law, but some lawmakers warned they will seek to protect voter ID laws as part of any eventual deal.

That demand underscored the difficulty Congress will have as lawmakers try to update the rules that required some states and localities to face extra scrutiny by the federal government before they can change voting laws, redraw districts or impose new criteria such as showing an ID before voting.

The law passed in 1965 and Congress renewed it in 2006, with Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly voting to continue the decades-old formula that decided which places had to face the extra scrutiny.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s majority opinion in the 5-4 ruling last month upset that balance, saying states can no longer be judged based on voting practices from 1964.

Now Congress is grappling with how to write a new formula.

The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart. It made me want to cry, Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who led one of the civil rights marches that helped spur passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Lewis, who still has one of the pens President Lyndon Johnson used to sign the law, said the problems have not gone away.

We have made progress; we have come a great distance, he said. But the deliberate, systematic attempt to make it harder and more difficult for many people to participate in the democratic process still exists to this very day.

Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held hearings this week and leaders in each party promised to spend the next few months talking about what sort of updates they can accept to the formula.

President Obama's campaign arm, Organizing for America, even sent out a fundraising email asking for money to press Congress to act. …