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House Democrats seek voting rights fixes. Senate GOP says it's already dead

William Douglas and Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are launching an ambitious effort to repair the landmark voting rights law that was fractured by the Supreme Court in 2013, with leaders eying field hearings in North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Georgia and other states.

They are under tremendous pressure from their supporters to deliver.

Though Democrats will run the House next year, the Republican-controlled Senate is not likely to consider any legislation addressing the Voting Rights Act that gets passed in the House.

"States run elections. Let's keep it that way," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., likely the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would have jurisdiction over the matter.

Fresh off their midterm election victories, however, Democrats want to show results -- and fast. They are planning as their agenda-setting legislation for 2019, a bill they've branded "HR 1."

It will package together a number of "good government" measures to increase transparency in rules governing campaign finance transactions, impose new ethical standards on federal officials and make it easier to vote.

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Many Democrats want to restore a key provision of 1965 Voting Rights Act as part of that package, eager to capitalize on the voting controversies in gubernatorial elections in Georgia and Florida, where there were complaints of irregularities.

In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said this task could be accomplished "within the early weeks of the next Congress" if hearings are "done on a fairly aggressive schedule."

In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down this provision of the law that required some or all of 15 states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to get federal approval, or pre-clearance, before changing their voting rules.

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., said she hopes her colleagues will pass a version of the voting rights bill, which reinstates the preclearance mandate and which she has already introduced, by March.

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