In the wake of last year's Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Right Act, many experts and pundits assumed the sections of the VRA found unconstitutional would not be corrected by a House of Representatives controlled by conservatives -- like the conservatives on the Supreme Court who led the body's ruling. Yet a few House conservatives stood out, one from our state: Jim Sensenbrenner. He expressed an interest in pushing for a Voting Right Act fix, and we are getting close to seeing the fruits of such interest.
Rep. Sensenbrenner joined with two liberal Democrats -- John Conyers from the House and Pat Leahy of the Senate -- to propose a bill that would address the openings possibly made by the Supreme Court for specious efforts to deny voting rights. Issues of pre-clearance would address recent violations, as opposed to the old (and now-invalidated) standard going back to those that are decades-old; changes to redistricting, polling places and the likes would need to be publicized; intentional voting discrimination would not have to be proved; and more.
Sensenbrenner has always been quite the conservative Republican; not a new breed of Tea Partier, but his voting record shows him solidly in the right-hand portion of the GOP caucus. Why would he sponsor a bill seemingly out of line with that caucus? He once related a story about driving to the South as a child and witnessing the discrimination faced by blacks in the latter days of the Jim Crow era. Evidently, Sensenbrenner sees that racial injustice can still thrive in today's moderated society, and puts that concern against the calculations that drive many in his party to restrict voting rights for minorities (much of it not racist -- merely purely political, as minorities oftentimes for Democratic...though surely some with racist beliefs do hold positions of power in our country and are driving these restrictions).
Praise is due for Rep. Sensenbrenner for efforting to correct the problems left in the Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court's ruling. Voting rights and racial justice are not partisan, and should not be ideological. Jim Sensenbrenner has proved as much with his bill. Our society will be better if it is made law.