Senate Republican Leader McConnell Denies Voting Rights Problems

by: Zenitha Prince AFRO Senior Correspondent
/ (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) /
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is praising the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act, dismissing concerns that the ruling has fueled laws that undermine the voting rights of minority voters.

In Shelby County vs. Holder the Supreme Court invalidated the formula that dictated which U.S. jurisdictions would be subject to federal pre-clearance before making election changes. The formula previously targeted jurisdictions with a history of discrimination against minority voters–many of them in the South.

“What was struck down were the provisions that absurdly treated the South differently,” McConnell told USA Today. “They don’t apply anymore. It’s 50 years later.”

The Kentu41DD4sUcoL__99112.1464096092.251.374cky Republican made the remarks while promoting his memoir, “The Long Game,” in which he lauded the 1965 passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act. McConnell attended the bill’s signing as a guest of then-Sen. John Sherman Cooper (R-Ky.).

“I was overwhelmed to witness such a moment in history, knowing that majorities in both parties voted for the bill,” McConnell writes in the book, according to USA Today.

In contrast, legislation meant to update the VRA–as mandated by the Supreme Court in Shelby–has only one Republican co-sponsor and is unlikely to be advanced. And that lack of support is despite the fact that since Shelby several states have passed restrictive laws that stymie voting access for many minority, poor and elderly voters.

“As a result of the Supreme Court’s dreadful ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, Americans across the country are now vulnerable to racially discriminatory voting laws that restrict the franchise without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and sponsor of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, has said. “We cannot sit by as the fundamental right to vote is systematically undermined.”

McConnell scoffed at such concerns, however, saying Democrats were simply trying to stack the polls with their supporters.

“A lot of this in my view doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than their estimation of what would give them an electoral advantage,” McConnell said. “It’s not really about knocking down barriers. There are no serious barriers to voting anymore anywhere in America.

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