Congressional Field Hearings Gather Stories of Voter Suppression

Congressional leaders have begun a series of listening sessions and field hearings that seek to document the need for the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The U.S. Supreme Court gutted the VRA in its 2013 ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder case out of Alabama that ended federal preclearance of election changes in places with a history of voter discrimination, most of them in the South.

The gatherings are being organized by the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections, which had been eliminated by Republicans but was restored after Democrats won control of the chamber last fall; the subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio. The initial listening session took place on Feb. 4 in Brownsville, Texas, while the first formal field hearing occurred in Atlanta on Feb. 19 at the Carter Presidential Center. The next hearing is set for the small town of Halifax, North Carolina, on April 18.

The Atlanta hearing featured testimonies from representatives of voting rights groups including the Advancement Project and Black Voters Matter. They detailed the long lines, defective voting machines, and voter purges that Georgia voters faced during the 2018 midterm. That election was overseen by Republican Brian Kemp, the Georgia secretary of state who was also running for governor and won amid controversy over his efforts to purge voter registrations in a way that disproportionately affected black residents.

Among those who testified in Atlanta was Stacey Abrams, a voting rights advocate and former Georgia state representative who ran for governor against Kemp as a Democrat, losing by a narrow margin of 50.2 to 48.8 percent. “From…

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