Patrick Leahy pledges "immediate action" on Voting Rights

"I could not disagree more with this result or the majority’s rationale," he said

Published June 25, 2013 5:10PM (EDT)

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pledged to immediately take action to counteract the Supreme Court's Tuesday decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, writing in a statement that "I fear today’s decision will make it more difficult for racial minorities to have their right to vote fully protected."

The Voting Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination at the polls, requires in Section 5 that areas of the country with a history of racial discrimination obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before making changes to voting regulations. Section 4 of the VRA establishes a formula for determining which areas are covered by Section 5. In a 5-4 decision, the Court found Section 4 unconstitutional, thus making Section 5 inoperable until Congress establishes a new formula for pre-clearance.

"The Voting Rights Act has worked to protect the Constitution’s guarantees against racial discrimination in voting for nearly five decades, but an activist majority of the Court today acted to undo one of the most critical provisions of the Act," Leahy said. "In striking down the coverage formula in the Voting Rights Act, the Court has dramatically undercut Section 5’s ability to protect American voters from racial discrimination in voting. The result is that many Americans who were protected by this law will now be vulnerable to discriminatory practices and will have much greater difficulty accessing the ballot box."

He continued: "As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting."

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Democrats Patrick J. Leahy Supreme Court Vermont Voting Rights Act