The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. Here’s the reaction so far from Virginia politicians, posted in the order they’ve been received. As we get more, we’ll add them.
* Terry McAuliffe, Democratic candidate for governor:
“I am disappointed to see the Supreme Court strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act today. For 48 years this important piece of legislation has protected the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Virginians. This legislation was actually one of the few bipartisan accomplishments in Washington in recent years when it was reauthorized and signed into law by George Bush in 2006 by a vote of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.
“Unlike my opponent, I believe that, while we have made progress, protections are still necessary to ensure that Virginians are allowed to exercise their right to vote without the risk of disenfranchisement. As Governor I will work to ensure that all eligible Virginians are able to make their voices heard in our democracy. I agree with Governor Bob McDonnell that Congress must act to draft new language and rectify this decision.”
* U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.:
“It is critical that we have an electoral system that is open, fair and not overly burdensome. This is particularly important given our history of unfairly restricting access to the ballot in Virginia. I am deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling, and I will work with my colleagues in Congress to move quickly to put in place a fair process that ensures our elections are open to all.”
* Governor Bob McDonnell (R):
“Today’s ruling maintains the portions of the Voting Rights Act that prohibit discriminatory practices and procedures. As Governor, I will ensure that the Commonwealth remains committed to protecting the rights of its citizens and ensuring that every Virginian’s vote counts. Virginia will continue to faithfully comply with the Constitution and the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act. I will work with the Attorney General to continue to conduct a thorough review of proposed changes to voting laws to ensure compliance with the Constitution and the VRA.”
* Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor:
“Virginia is committed to fair elections, fair voting districts, and ensuring everyone’s vote counts. Regardless of the court’s decision, legal mechanisms remain in place to safeguard the vote of Virginia’s citizens. My role as attorney general is to ensure that those safeguards are followed and that Virginia’s voting procedures continue to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”
* Virginia Speaker William J. Howell (R):
“The General Assembly has been vigilant in drawing voting districts that are consistent with the law, which is why our district lines cleared President Obama’s Justice Department scrutiny in the latest rounds of redistricting. The members of the General Assembly simply will not tolerate redistricting that sanctions discrimination.”
* Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R):
“Voter discrimination has no place in the Commonwealth and will not be tolerated by members of the Senate of Virginia. As every Virginia voter who believes a voting law or redistricting line to be discriminatory retains the ability to bring a court challenge, protections against voter discrimination remain intact despite the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act.”
* State Sen. Mark Herring, Democratic candidate for attorney general:
“The Supreme Court’s decision today is deeply disappointing. It is a step backward, and an affront to the men and women who fought for the Voting Rights Act and the countless number of Virginians whose voting rights have been protected by this legislation.
“While Virginia and our nation have made progress since 1965 toward protecting every individual’s constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, I agree with our Governor that Virginia has not outgrown the Voting Rights Act and that Congress should move to rectify this decision.
“I believe we must remain vigilant in protecting against any effort that disenfranchises voters and as Attorney General I will always stand up to protect Virginians’ right to vote.”
* U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the validity of the Voting Rights Act preclearance requirement but specify that Congress must grapple anew with the appropriate geographic application of the technique raises serious concerns, particularly with regard to how voting rights will be protected in the interim in places where discrimination still exists. As a former member of state and local elected bodies subject to preclearance rules, I have generally found the process straightforward and, given the importance of voting, not onerous. I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues to determine how we can continue to rigorously protect the voting rights of all. In the meantime, I would advocate that jurisdictions continue to submit voting changes to the Department of Justice for preclearance as a sign to their own constituents that they are committed to ensuring equal voting rights.”
* Democratic Party of Virginia:
“This is a step backward for voting Virginians,” said DPVA Vice Chair Senator Louise Lucas. “Sadly, in 2013 this section of the Voting Rights Act is still needed. Just last November we saw lines of Virginians – some of which were six hours long – who just wanted to exercise their most fundamental right. Today’s ruling opens the door to even more barriers for Virginians who wish to exercise their right to vote.
“Year after year, Virginia Republicans like Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain support legislation to limit Virginians’ access to the voting booth. Just this year, Mark Obenshain sponsored and the Senate passed the controversial photo ID bill, making it more difficult for students, the elderly, and working families to cast their votes. That’s why the Democratic Party of Virginia is fighting every single day to elect leaders who care about protecting and expanding the vote, not limiting it.”
* State Sen. Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor:
“There is a clear bipartisan consensus that today’s ruling is the wrong for Virginia and I share Governor McDonnell’s and Senator Warner’s concerns about the Supreme Court’s decision. It is vital that we protect the right to vote for all of Virginia’s citizens. In the state Senate I have defended voting rights and opposed efforts to undermine fair elections in the Commonwealth. As Lt. Governor I will continue to make sure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to make their voices heard on Election Day.”
Sherman Lea, councilman, City of Roanoke:
I feel today’s decision severely undermines the legal protections that have been vital for almost 50 years, protecting voters of all nationalities. I feel some states will take the position that pre-clearance is no longer required. In recent years it is evident that Virginia along with several other states have been consistent in creating obstacles for many of its citizens to vote. Even though it is a discouraging day for many citizens along with civil rights organizations it is my hope that the congress will take the appropriate action to restore the power of Section 4. It is important to remember that a “padlock was put on the tool box to keep the honest people honest.”