Voting Rights Fix Tests Civil Rights Movement's Strength

But proponents of changes to voting laws, mostly Republican, say that making changes to early voting, registration, and polling hours is rightfully within the purview of individual states. And requiring ID at the polling place is akin to requiring an ID to purchase alcohol.

When the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the voting rights act in Shelby County vs. Holder by ruling that that Congress would have to go back to the drawing board to update the formula that determines which jurisdictions have to "pre-clear" any voting law changes with the federal government, the response among lawmakers was muted among Republicans.

Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican, has emerged as the most outspoken and somewhat lonely advocate within his party of quickly restoring the "pre-clearance" portion of the voting rights act, even while his fellow Republicans remain largely silent.

"I am committed to restoring the Voting Rights Act as an effective tool to prevent racial discrimination, more subtle discrimination now than overt discrimination," Sensenbrenner said at a Republican National Committee Luncheon Monday to mark the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, a comment that earned him a standing ovation from the mostly African-American crowd (which was at least partial Democratic).

"The first thing we have to do is take out the monkey wrench that the Supreme Court threw at it."

Yet the court's ruling this spring has only emboldened states to move forward with changes to their laws that advocates believe are discriminatory and make it more difficult for minorities, young people and the poor to vote.

It didn't take long (only hours) for Texas to pledge that with the pre-clearance portion of the voting rights act struck down, it would move forward with voting law changes, which had previously been blocked by the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has since sued Texas to stop the voter ID law.

Making the challenge even greater, by striking down the "pre-clearance" portion of the Voting Rights Act, advocates are being forced to challenge laws in the expensive and time-consuming way: by suing in court.

"My biggest concern is that we have enough resources to be able to do it," Culliton-González of the Advancement Project said. "The Supreme Court took away really our most important tool in combating discriminatory practices.

"When you think about the resources on the other side," she added," they have good funding."

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