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California politicos on the Voting Rights Act ruling

Here’s how some California politicos are reacting to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voids key provisions of the Voting Rights Act:

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision today to limit the Voting Rights Act. The law successfully countered a century of aggressive limitations on minority voting rights, a fact that today’s majority decision acknowledged: ‘The Act has proved immensely successful at redressing racial discrimination and integrating the voting process.’

“After more than 20 hearings in the House and Senate, Congress in 2006 reauthorized key provisions in the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, a bill I was proud to cosponsor. By invalidating a key piece of the law, the Supreme Court departed from settled precedent and dealt a real setback for voting rights in this country.

“I believe Congress should move quickly to introduce new legislation to preserve voting rights for all Americans.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of the clear evidence we continue to see of efforts to suppress the vote in minority communities across the country. It is devastating that the Court’s conservative majority would strike down a central provision of the law that has protected the voting rights of all Americans for nearly a half century, and was reauthorized by Congress almost unanimously just seven years ago. I’ll be working with my Senate colleagues to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that every American can participate fully in our democracy.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Today, the Supreme Court took a step backward on voting rights, on civil rights, on liberty and justice for all. This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

“Even with this setback, the court did place the power to reinforce the heart of the Voting Rights Act in the hands of Congress. As Members of Congress, we know that changes in election laws can have discriminatory effects. That’s why Congress made the determination that advance review of changes in election procedures is required for jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans came together to reauthorize the law, garnering overwhelming bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress – passing the House by a vote 390-33 and the Senate by a vote of 98-0, then signed into law by President George W. Bush. This year, we must follow in that same tradition, taking the court’s decision as our cue for further action to strengthen this legislation.

“Voting rights are essential to who we are as Americans, to the cause of equality, to the strength of our democracy. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast. We must secure the most basic privilege of American citizenship: the right to vote.”

More, after the jump…

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose:

“It is extremely disappointing that the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act today. Despite acknowledging that voting discrimination still exists, the majority nonetheless chose to declare unconstitutional the formula determining which states and localities the VRA applies to. As chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I know how vital it is for racial and ethnic minorities to take part in the electoral process. As Justice Ginsberg noted in her dissent, there were numerous examples of discriminatory practices from jurisdictions covered by the formula that were blocked by the VRA, but would now be permitted. It saddens me that with this decision, millions of voices may no longer be heard at the ballot box. We must act to ensure that people from all walks of life are able to participate fully in our democracy.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“I am disappointed in the Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. Considering the pattern across our country of abnormally long lines at polling places in minority precincts, onerous and unnecessary ID requirements despite no evidence of voter fraud, and the occasional act of old-fashioned voter intimidation or misinformation designed to keep people of color from the polls, it is hard to fathom how they found that protections of the right to vote were unnecessary. I will continue to try to find new and innovative ways to increase participation in our democracy in the hopes that other states will one day follow our example.”

From state Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, who is also president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a disappointment and a major setback for civil rights in our country. The Voting Rights Act (VRA) has been an important tool for four decades to protect voting rights from California to Virginia and Alaska to Texas. Instead of throwing it away, we need to modernize it.

“Unfortunately voting rights continue to be attacked today. These attacks might not be literacy tests and poll taxes, but voter identification laws and elimination of early voting have the same effect of undermining the right to vote. According to the Brennan Center, since 2011 alone, 180 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 41 states.

“In California we have taken it upon ourselves to expand access and opportunities to voting that include full implementation of the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter), same day and online voter registration, consistent early voting opportunities, some of the shortest lines at polling stations in the nation, and requiring the new Health Benefit Exchange to register voters.

“I call on Congress and the President to take action to modernize the Voting Rights Act as soon as possible so that the Federal government can continue to fight discriminatory voting laws and protect our citizens’ fundamental constitutional rights.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a serious blow to one of our most fundamental rights: the right to vote.

“We have seen time and again that discrimination is still alive today and that it remains a very real threat to millions of Americans seeking to exercise their right to vote. Discrimination is still haunting us, not in the form of a poll tax, but in a clear and coordinated effort to disenfranchise communities of color, older Americans, students, and other vulnerable populations. We should be making it easier for participation in this democratic process, not harder.

“This decision today has gutted a key piece of the most effective civil rights legislation ever enacted by Congress. That right is the heart and soul of our democracy, and we must defend it. I will continue to fight in Congress to ensure equal access to the polls and to ensure that the right to vote is never compromised.

“Today, I call on Republicans to come to the table with Democrats in a bipartisan way and work together on this enormously important issue.”

From California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer:

“Today’s decision eliminates a critical level of protection for voters in states where governors and legislatures work year after year to undermine the voting rights of U.S. citizens. Fortunately, California has a robust set of election laws designed to protect the rights of voters in all 58 counties, including California’s three pre-clearance counties. However, voters in other parts of the country are not nearly as fortunate as Californians. That is why Congress must work as quickly as possible to restore the full federal Voting Rights Act protections that many voters have relied on for nearly 50 years.”

From Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose:

“This decision is disappointing because the Supreme Court used the Voting Rights Act’s success to justify striking this key section down, even as it acknowledged that voting discrimination still exists today. Every eligible citizen is entitled to their Constitutional right to vote free from artificial barriers or hurdles. It’s a bedrock principle we reaffirmed through careful bipartisan work in the Judiciary Committee when Congress last renewed the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Congress now has a responsibility to take this matter up again, as the Court suggests it should, to ensure that spirit is reflected in the law so no one is disenfranchised from their fundamental right to vote.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.