On the same day North Carolina’s Republican governor Pat McCrory signed “the country’s worst voter suppression” law, Hillary Clinton gave a strident defense of the Voting Rights Act before the annual meeting of the American Bar Association.
“Anyone that says that racial discrimination is no longer a problem in American elections must not be paying attention,” the former secretary of state, senator and first lady said.
After she took on the North Carolina law directly, saying it “reads like a greatest hits of voter suppression,” Clinton criticized the recent Supreme Court ruling that she said stuck down “the heart” of the Voting Rights Act, first signed into law in 1965 then renewed several times, most recently by a Republican Congress and president in 2006.
She called for a three-pronged approach to restoring the “hole” the Court created in the Act, which has, at least temporarily, ended the requirement for pre-clearance of all changes to election law in specific states and counties that have demonstrated discrimination against minorities.
“So what can we do and why am I talking to you, the members of the House of Delegates, about what can happen and what you can do?” she asked. “I think we need an approach that moves at multiple fronts at once: stepped up enforcement by the Department of Justice, new legislation from Congress and grassroots action by citizens and lawyers across the country.”
This approach involves the Department of Justice continuing its effort to use the remaining aspects of the Voting Rights Act to undo discriminatory changes in Texas. She also suggested that the department create a new list for pre-clearance based on new abuses. Chief Justice Roberts’ argument for striking down the formula in Section 4 of the law was that it was created in the 1960s and was no longer relevant.
Clinton plans on weighing in on other pressing issues over the next few months.
“Next month at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, I will talk about the balance and transparency necessary in our national security policies, as we move beyond a decade of wars to face new threats,” she said. “And later in the fall, I will address the implications of these issues for America’s global leadership and our moral standing around the world.”
But that her first major policy speech since leaving office focused on voting, following an announcement supporting same-sex marriage, shows that civil rights will play a key role in her new position at the Clinton Foundation — and whatever else she decides to do next.