tv Asst. Atty. General Testifies on John Lewis Voting Rights Act - Part 1 CSPAN October 28, 2021 10:57pm-12:25am EDT
this is the fourth hearing on protecting the right to vote, which we introduced yesterday, before we begin i would like to turn to this video and put it in a historic perspective. >> those who founded our country, knew the freedom would be secured only if each generation thought to renew and enlarge at least. now our generation of americans has been called on to contain the unending search for justice. >> to be self evident, that all man are created equal. >> as millions are being devised in those blessings. >> the texas election bill that has made headlines for the last several months will be law. >> it will make it harder for many people to vote. >> legislative laws are limiting voting access.
>> the court took up to [inaudible] both made it harder for minorities to vote. they say that the court has few legal weapons to challenge these laws nearly passed. >> the john lewis voting rights is about congress finally doing its job. >> the best way we can live up to a legacy is to remember that he fought for every american to have equal rights to vote. >> we all know that this is not a democratic or republican issue, it's an american one and i will fight until the death to make everyone have the right to vote. if not now if when. the road is long but it bends
towards justice. >> our fellow americans, the right to vote in this country. [applause] >> our work is not finished. >> public officials across the country are hearing about redistricting. it is happening in my state and virtually every other state. every ten years following the census, county commissions, and town councils are we drawing the line that will help determine the american people -- who the american people electors and represent themselves in congress. that means, since the day since before marley to's march on washington, congressional, state and local government districts will be drawn without the key protections of the voting rights act. in 2013, the supreme court issued its decision in shelby county versus holder, that essentially nullified section five of the voting rights act.
section five required localities with records of discrimination against voters of color, like racist policies such as poll taxes, to ensure that any changes to the voting roles were vetted by the justice department before they could be enforced. this requirement is known simply as preclearance. as applied to redistricting. it was a guarantee of accountability to the law, that was eliminated by the supreme court in shelby. as today's witnesses, assistant attorney general kristen clarke will explain, in the absence of a preclearance requirement, jurisdictions have less incentive to involve the community in the elections process. losing this avenue of participation is particularly harmful to minority voters. americans have every reason to be concerned about the lack of
transparency. without the full protections of the voting rights act, state legislators could redraw districts in ways that unlawfully diminish the power voters of color. the truth is, state lawmakers off already taken unprecedented steps. this year alone, legislators have introduced more than 425 bills with provisions to make it harder for people, particularly people of color, to vote. 19 states have gone on to enact 33 of these laws. some set new limits on voting by mail. others cut hours on polling locations. all designs to achieve the same outcome. barriers to the ballot box. the proponents claim they are designed to help prevent voter fraud, but it is actually grift for the middle of the big lie. the former president insisted
he actually won the election last year. he is still at it. that election was branded by the department of homeland security as the most secure in american history. earlier this month, a team of republicans backed, quote, cyber ninjas -- that's with the call themselves. they conducted a months long audit, funded with millions of dollars, a month-long audit of the 2020 election results in arizona, to prove once and for all, that donald trump finally won. what did they find? more votes for joe biden. and fewer votes for donald trump. despite this overwhelming evidence, the myth of voter fraud persist. sadly, it is being weaponized by those who hoped to advance their own political ambitions by discrediting our electoral process. those who are defame and finish our democracy --
we in the congress have a duty to defend -- the john doe's voting rights act, through this act, the senate has the opportunity to reinvigorate. -- over the years, democrats and republicans voted the same way on the voting rights act. in the words of senator mitch mcconnell, quote, who voted for once, this is a piece of legislation that has worked. he is right. let's get to work. there is no freedom more fundamental in our nation and the right to vote. as john lewis said before his passing, it is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. our democracy is strongest when every eligible voter votes. i will now turn to senator leahy -- sorry, chuck grassley and then
senator leahy. >> hr4 was crafted in the memory of john lewis. and it is about the voting rights that he thought for and was honored for. the unfortunate reality is that this hearing is another attack and this bill is yet another example of federal takeover state and local elections. to take control of elections away from the state and into the hands of the biden harris department of justice and partisan lawyers backed by dark money groups. before discussing the matter, i want to say that we are grateful to have a number of extraordinary, busy state officials and former state and federal officials we heard from who were eager to testify against this bill.
this was even more impressive for this year, given that the second panel was unsettled until last friday. we truly appreciate all their efforts and their outreach. revising and reviewing this bill, i can see why so many experts were willing to rearrange their schedules. wthis bill as a disaster. it penalizes states for voter i.d. laws, which an overwhelming majority of american support. even democrats claim to support ideal oz earlier this year. it fundamentally changes who is responsible for elections in america, we are placing states with the federal government. why change what has worked for 240 years? the constitution is very clear that the matter of holding elections is up to state legislatures.
this is the fourth hearing regarding voting rights in the united states senate in this congress. we had a subcommittee hearing two weeks ago on the same topic. but this did not seem like a process designed to learn more from the experts and state officials responsible. it seemed right so that we could say that we had another hearing but look at this built history. this bill has been proposed in various names and with slightly different provisions, all the way back to 2015. it was proposed in direct response to the supreme court decision of shelby county. that case recognized that the landscape in america looks very different in 2013 than in 1965, when the voting rights act was passed. and the supreme court concluded
that congress could not keep requiring states to preclear with federal election law changes based on data going back to 1965. fast forward, then, eight years, and the supreme court again issued a decision, this time in brnovich v. democratic national committee. in this case, the supreme court lacked a substantive guidepost to determine whether considering the totality of the circumstances, changes to the voting rules are lawful under section two of the voting rights act. unsurprisingly, democrats immediately set about revising this bill to overrule the supreme courts common sense decision. the latest version does not just revive the preclearance procedures in place before shelby county. it massively expands
preclearance. democrats also want to erase the very reasonable factors that the court outlined in brnovich, to guide lower courts as they look at the totality of circumstances for changes to voting laws. hr4 we places there was supreme court guideposts with a list of undefined and far more vague factors, such as difficulty complying with voting requirements. these factors don't provide any legal clarity. what they do provide is enormous opportunity for mischief by democrat lawyers. lawyers backed by an unending flow of dark money. they can find a few violations under this amorphous tendered, then the state is subject to
preclearance. that gives the doj control over jurisdiction for a period of ten years. as written, hr4 would also give the department of justice the power to retroactively look back at a jurisdiction and determine whether in the past 25 years, the your station has sufficient number of violations to warrant imposing preclearance right now. preclearance worked wonders in 1965. it was needed to ensure the vote for minority communities that would deny the right to vote by poll taxes and literacy tests. those laws have thankfully been race from the books. tewe simply had record turnout for minority voters. so why are we expanding preclearance in 2021? do we really want the
department of justice exerting this level of control over our state? this is the same doj that only yesterday distributed a memorandum vaguely threatening to use the fbi to investigate parents protesting schools teaching critical race theory in the classroom, if those protests, quote unquote, intimidate school board members. do we really want to give partisan activists, who claimed that paying for postage stamps to mail in a ballot is a poll tax? the ability to subject to state too burdensome federal regulations and oversight? do we really want to give democratic operatives unfettered power to bring states under preclearance with lawsuits resting on vague notions of quote, unquote, violations? to that end, i hope to hear from attorney general rokita,
previously indiana secretary of state, what is so important for states to run their own elections, and why is it important for voter participation. i hope to hear from the honorable can cuccinelli, the attorney general of the commonwealth of virginia. when preclearance was outlawed. and on what the effect of imposing preclearance will have to move forward. before i would wrap up, i will take a moment to introduce lieutenant governor -- the flaws in hr4 and noted, quote, this legislation is nothing more than attempt to ensure that the one party controls the government in perpetuity, by mandating and unconstitutional federal takeover of elections. i also appreciate that a legal
adviser to the bipartisan carter baker commission noted that hr4 is the antithesis of the carter baker commissions bipartisan recommendations for election reform. unquote. we would be wise to heed their concerns with regard to. but sadly, my democratic friends seem to disagree. they are pushing hr4 to take away the ability of states to establish their own voting roles. we can all agree that we should all participate in american democracy and a fundamental right that we should want to protect and not outsource to the doj and activists outside groups. thank. you thank you senator grassley. senator leahy? >> thank you mister chairman, i
know that they were talking about hr4, but i dealt with as four and made changes to the bill that he was talking about. the john lewis voting rights act to pass, i champion it every year. the voting rights, and it has been bipartisan for many years, just like all the voting rights act have been before. i hope it continues to get bipartisan support as all of these acts. like the evolving decision. the impact of lowering rights acts. it must be addressed as
emerging concerns. maybe, surprising to some to learn that the voting rights act has been an overwhelming bipartisan effort for decades. it seems to be an era of partisanship that i hope will not obscure, what has united us across parting lines. republicans and democrats are in a position -- in fact, it wasn't long ago, we stood side by side and approve the 2000 and pre-authorization. we even sued to get their house and senate members, republicans and democrats alike on the steps of the capital.
and you have about his broad spectrum of ideologies among the republicans, the democrats in that picture you can imagine, the belief in our right to vote it's bigger than politics. in my state of vermont, we fight to make sure everybody has the right to vote. it is a belief that a system of government of, by, and for the people is one worth preserving for generations to come. that's why the john lewis voting rights act is here. it seeks to ensure that americans all parties, all races, all backgrounds have the right to vote protected. it has never been the party,
about the power of one party over another. in the last election we elected a republican governor and a democrat lieutenant governor. it's not about a federal takeover, it's about empowering citizens to fulfill their constitutional committee and exercise the right to vote. we as elected representatives of the people ought to be able to agree that it is a right towards protecting. the legislation introduced yesterday's a combination of many months of negotiations both in the senate and house in the consultation with the department of justice. the supreme court -- current voting conditions and
then preface any voting legislation. what does the record show? it demonstrates action in senate is needed. the >> we did our part, we introduced the senate version and uses the goals, and incorporated until we saw a bipartisan conversation. it never has been, not on my years, we will continue working in good faith with senators on both parties, we are protecting
our precious right to vote. and that's more important than any party. any one of them. it's a sacrifice like the one are friend meade. we will live up his example, put aside our differences, do it for the democracy. i know we can, the question is do we have the will to try? >> thank you senator leahy, senator kurt? >> thank you mister chairman. they hearing the democrats decided to hold demonstrates their priority, they care about. we have a crisis raging on our southern border right now because of joe biden's lawless an open border policy. the head of the biden department of homeland security is informing his staff to prepare for up to 400,000 illegal immigrants crossing
this month. the senate judiciary committee has not had a single hearing on the crisis on the suffered border. over 2 million illegal immigrants streaming into america, democrats don't care. hundreds of thousands of age isn't range, democrats don't care. every single one of them went on and on about that, you not know there is saying, they didn't believe because if they believed it, there is more things that are powerful now than there ever were and not a democrat in this committee can. hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants with covid. democrats don't care. children by the thousands being physically and sexually abused by human traffickers, democrats don't care. drugs streaming across our border, democrats don't care. young women being trapped in
sexual slavery by human traffickers what do they care about? this demonstrates what they care about they have one priority and that is power. staying in power that's why democrats have had four hearings on amnesty, they look at 2 million illegal immigrants and say oh, future democratic voters let's get them all in. never mind the abuses that happen, this is about power for a democratic friends. there is something they have had more hearings on then amnesty. and that is the federal takeover of election law and the democratic power grab. there is nothing that is a higher priority for democrats than staying in power. the corrupt politicians act was so brazen lee political. such a naked power grab. that democrats abandon it that when they realize they could not defend it with a straight
face. so this is their fall back. senator leahy mentioned his version of the bill, that was filed at 12:45 am last night. -- the department of justice preclearance for everyone democrats don't like, and departments of justice preclearance for everything democrats don't like. here's how it would work. every state local government in the country would have to certain voting changes. what changes? anything like imposing voter i.d. on elections. or preventing ballot harvesting. kristen clarke, a partisan activist who has not been shy about their hatred of voter integrity laws, before those changes can go into effect. spoiler alert, if it is a law protecting --
if it's a valid ided law protecting against ballot harvesting. -- similarly, any state and local government that democrats don't like, they have to submit every voting change the same partisan activists. let me give you an example of how crazy this is by analogy. can you amanda in if republicans proposed a law that said that states like california and new york in illinois have to submit every law or policy affecting religious liberty or affecting firearms to a brand-new division of the department of justice staff, almost entirely, staffed by activists who have been fighting religious liberty and in favor of the second amendment the entire time? and if these activists objected,
then it could not be implemented. democrats claim they're protecting the right to vote. this bill is an assault on the right to vote. why? number one, ballot integrity act, like the voter i.d. act, prevents voter fraud. sadly, democrats have looked at the bipartisan carter baker provision shared by the former democratic president them jimmy carter, and just about every recommendation to prevent fraud, they've turned on its head. and they have said that we want fraud because it benefits democrats. they want to -- you don't get to claim, as senate democrats to, that you favor democracy when you propose measures to stop democracy. democracy means the voters
decide. this bill is an assault on democracy. because it says, we don't care that 29 million people in the state of texas decide we want voter i.d., in accordance with the views of 80% of americans. we don't care. one alleged elected brooke crowd at the department just as who happens to be a radical left wing democratic activist as the power to say, to bleep with democracy, we are striking down laws passed by democratically elected legislatures. this is a power grab. it is cynical. and it is wrong. >> we will now turn to the first panel, we honor and welcome you, assistant attorney general kristen clarke, a former civil rights lawyer who has spent entire career in public service. she worked at the civil rights
division. executive director of the lawyers committee for civil rights law. let me lay out the mechanics of the hearing. we will have five minutes for an opening statement from the assistant attorney general. then around of questions. we hope senators will abide by their standards and keep to their time. roll call votes will allow senators out of the committee from time to time. we will once again have five minute opening statements for each witnesses. assistant attorney general kristen clarke, can you please stand to be sworn in? do you swear that your testimony will be the whole truth, nothing but the truth, to help you god? let the record show that the answers in the affirmative. please proceed. >> chairman durbin, ranking member grassley and members of
the senate judiciary committee, my name is kristen clarke and i serve as assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the u.s. department of justice. thank you for the opportunity to implement and enforce the voting rights act and the need to revitalize restore the act. and thethe voting rights act is president johnson said, one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of american freedom. it is a law that helps to truly transform american democracy. however, the progress we have made is fragile. recently there has been a resurgence in attacks on voting rights, including cuts to early voting periods, burdensome restrictions to register to vote, racially gerrymandered restricting plans, polling sites eliminated or consolidated in communities of color. eligible voters purged from the
roles and more. i am here today to sound an alarm for the justice department which storing and strengthening the voting rights act as a matter of great urgency. the supreme court's 2013 shelby county forces hold a ruling suspended the preclearance process, eliminating the justice department's single most powerful and effective tool for protecting the right to vote. before shelby, the preclearance process enable the department to swiftly block the implementation of many discriminatory and unconstitutional voting practices. do section five, the department blocked over 3000 voting changes, helping protect the rights of millions of citizens. in over 60% of blocked changes, there was evidence of intentional discrimination.
we also know that preclearance requirements deterred many jurisdictions from adopting discriminatory changes in the first place. >> too many jurisdictions have used the shelby ruling as an indication to adopt rules that disadvantage minorities. today jurisdictions that want to restrict voting rights what's they describe the advantage of time and inertia. the laws can be -- case by case litigation which we have pursued in texas. we are on the cusp of another potentially transformational moment, a new redistricting cycle last commands, 2000 census numbers show that we are becoming a diverse nation with this population growth --
it would be the fires in half a century without the full protection of the voting rights act and jurisdiction may be poised to dilute the minority strength that has resulted from a natural demographic change without preclearance the justice department will have limited pools to obtain documents and assess where voting rights are being restricted there by hampering enforcement efforts. the john lewis voting rights addresses several of the barriers i have referenced with art eating the efforts to protect citizens of the rights to vote. they updated the relevant criteria so that section five coverage can define the current
conduct by jurisdiction. second the bill provides greater clarity regarding the appropriate legal standard in to vote denial cases. third, the legislation gives the department authority to compel the production of documents and materials relevant investigations of potential voting rights violation. fourth the bill places new measures to safeguard the rights of native american and alaskan native voters. in 1965, congress enacted, and in 1975, 1982, and 2006 reauthorized a statute that provided a strong medicine needed to remedy footing discrimination, and to enforce our constitution's commitment to ensure that no citizens right to vote would be abridged on account of race or color. congress must act now to restore the voting rights act,
two prevented from backsliding into a nation where millions of citizens, particularly citizens of color, find it difficult to register, cast their ballot and elect candidates of their choice. the justice department welcomes this opportunity to work with congress, to revive this bedrock civil rights law. thank you. >> thank you general clark. let me start to questioning. texas is the largest legislature, this year, to attack the right to vote based on ally of widespread voter fraud. last month, abbott signed a law that banned voting opportunities that make voting more accessible, particularly during the pandemic such as drive-through voting and 24-hour voting access. increase access for partisan poll watchers, it prohibited local election officials from
proactively distributing applications to register melon ballots, it also restricted male access, including you i deprogramming for absentee voters. the voting restrictions come after voters of color use all of these same options at historic levels in the last election. now supporters of the bill are saying we have to do. it's the only way to stop voter fraud, they spend 20,000 hours looking for evidence of fraud, you would think they would've made a case, what they found, to try to justify the law was the following, only 16 potential cases of fraud out of 17 million registered voters. you remember what happens in arizona, 5.7 million, the net result was more votes for biden, fewer votes for trump. this notion of voter fraud is
-- there is no basis for it. i would like you to put into perspective for just a moment. we know discrimination based on voting throughout our history is a horrible chapter, more than one chapter in our history when, it comes to civil rights, the question today is does it take on a different context in light of the big lie, the argument of previous presidents that won the last election, is there evidence of that? and to disrupt our voting rights process? >> thank you for the question, chairman. the justice department believes that elections in our country should be open, fair and free from fraud, we have observed that claims of fraud are rare
should the justice department encounter evidence of fraud, they are ready to investigate that fraud, but with the justice department's observation, voting discrimination is widespread, it's a current problem across our country in texas and many other parts of the country. the justice department spent several years working on this law. the state of texas at 3.5 million dollars defending the law. the justice department is here to make the case for destroy the preclearance provision so that we can ensure that our elections are free, open and fair across the country. >> it seems to the argument being made is sure it was a problem in the old days, but it just no longer is a problem that would require preclearance, and yet you look back not that far in history, a three judge
panel in 2016 examining it when he 13 north carolina voting law that requires a strict voter i.d. and limited early voting, they wrote quote, part of african americans -- this is no coincidence. [inaudible] a restrictive voting in registration in five different ways, all of which affected african americans. the question i have for you is there evidence now of we are seeing in the states? you >> phone discrimination is a current day problem, the justice department has found that section two litigation which is fraud in the states
that you have a reference have proven to be an adequate substitute for the important production that had been protected by section five. the advantage of section five is that it blocks the discriminatory laws for ever taking roots in our electoral process while the department has section five in place, the department likes 3000 discriminatory voting changes, it's about 60% of them having evidence of intentional discrimination, our hope is that these hearings would be to a restoration of what has been the most important and powerful tool for the department, safeguarding the right to vote in our country. >> thank you, senator. >> general i'm gonna quote someone that you know probably already exist, but 40% of them
said that they supported requiring voter i.d., 60% say that they require photo i.d., that number of rose to 87% among independents, 91% among republicans, so two questions do you, how do you square leaving that common that voter i.d. is [inaudible] and your words an act to suppress black vote? >> thank you, number grassley, it does not believe that voter i.d. laws on their fate are on lawful, the department carries out its work by looking at the particular photo i.d. law that may have been adopted in a particular state and matches that data with the opinion of experts to see who has access to a particular form of i.d.
under particular law. we follow the facts and photo i.d. laws on their face or not invalid, it depends where the photo i.d. law has been instituted, it depends on the form of the i.d. and the kinds of ideas that may be permissible on that law, and whether or not there are people who have access to the particular category called for by a law. >> the overwhelming majority of americans according to full support i.d. requirements, so you think most americans support voter suppression because you said it was suppressing black folks? >> while the department believes that our election should be free from discrimination and particular
photo i.d. laws or decision to shut down polling sites. they have discriminatory impact on minority voters. what we have found over the course of our work is that it is fact specific, fact intensive inquiries, senators. these kinds of analogies are carried out by this department, into photo to determine -- >> you gave me a department answer, and that's appropriate but my question is whether you think these i.d. requirements, because americans say they are for them and you say their way of suppressing black folks, do you think americans support voter suppression? >> well, senator, i think that
these polls are helpful but the department conducts these by looking at the facts. >> let me go onto another question. they recently fired a lawsuit, will the department bring reinforcement action, only allowing ten days of voting action? if you say no to that, if you don't plan to bring an action, how can you tell that there are more lenient provisions for delaware or new york? >> senator, i can't comment on the investigation and if any investigation exists, i can
tell you that we are committed to protecting the right to vote. in new york, we resolved matter involving a county that ran of foul of the registration act, and help america vote act. we want to eliminate discrimination wherever it rears its head across the country. >> i was very gratified to see that the 2020 presidential election despite the pandemic features the largest increase of voter between two presidential election on the record, with 17 million more people voting than in 2016, and quote. additionally in 2020, non hispanic blacks had a higher voting turnout than in 2016, 63% compared to 60%, it was seem to me that we should be encouraging a high turnout without restricting, what about
this justifies imposition of preclearance? >> thank you, senator. the statistics that you share certainly reflect the story of progress, but with the department has found is that particular communities across the country remain real and a real problem. we saw this in texas, north carolina where the department was engaged in long-standing section two litigation against measures in this region. we saw this recently in new york, in the matter that i reference involving violation, we saw this in new jersey, where we recently resolved to statewide and pei claims. while there has been progress, we know that voting discrimination remains alive and well and many local and other jurisdictions across the country, in section five has
proven to be an important tool to identify and block voting discrimination. >> thank you. i have a couple of questions, some of us have been running in a now -- >> mister chairman, do we have an order, so that we will know when we are in the queue? >> i know who you are, we've met before. >> i was just asking if we had an order? >> the republicans and i -- >> you got it? thanks. >> we will go by order for rival, your head of everybody else -- we will start the time over
again. the attorney general clark, i'm glad that you are here,, it's important that we all be here. the response of the john lewis voting acts i am appalled by destroying the voting act. my parents they would go to vote and they told me that this is a right everybody should have, for decades, since i've been here democrats and republicans have come together, and i can't understand what is going on now. why is it so important for americans, of all backgrounds,
that this issue should unite us and not divide us. >> the right to vote is one of the most essential rights in american democracy in the voting rights act has been met by bipartisan support throughout the years. and had subsequent reauthorization through that 1970, with 2006, i am we're calling the statement that president bush made when he signed the law in 2006, he was renewing a bill that helped bring a community on the march and into the light of american democracy. the justice department knows that partnership has no place when it comes to enforcement of the voting rights act, this work has been about ensuring that all americans enjoy equal
access to the ballot, regardless of what [inaudible] they should enjoy a process that is free from discrimination. they want to restore a a law that has been one of the most effective laws that has been passed in congress. >> for those of us, i know you do when i do, everybody should have the right to vote, republicans democrats, if we want to preserve a democracy. some would say this is and the tourists attempt. , nobody in my state would allow me to vote for it,
nothing can be worse than the truth, can you explain simple terms why the john lewis voting rights act [inaudible] to make sure the state has ample opportunities? >> the department knows the importance elements of this bill. it makes spell out easy. we observed and there are states throughout time where north carolina indicated that they enjoy the benefits of plea clarence. they appreciated the latitude that it offered, the current employees at the justice department handle the
preclearance process had good working conditions with local and state officials. jurisdictions also have the option of bypassing the justice department and going to the court for judicial reviews instead, but there has been a long history of good collaboration between the justice department and local and state jurisdiction, administering the preclearance process, the process at the end of the day who has helped voting discrimination and has helped to reduce discrimination from our electoral process. >> thank you. hopefully we'll continue to work together on this and i'm including in the record now the house judiciary committee addressing footing rights act [inaudible] our objective will be included.
i'll continue to work with you because i was thrilled [inaudible] i was thrilled to be standing with leading republicans and democrats, and say this is for america. it's for america. now to answer my friends question, senator lee will be recognizing senator klobuchar. >> thank you mister chairman, miss clark talk about four minute with states can do. can california have the authority and should it have the authority to adopt more
stringent air quality standards than the federal standards in place without receiving plea clearance from the united states government? >> senator this is not an area that i work in this is not an area that i work in. >> what about areas that are protected by the bill of rights? hastings wants to pass laws dealing with covid-19 that might have the impact of restricting religious impact, like restricting the number of people who may congregate in a church or otherwise? should laws like that have to receive preclearance before the can be enacted by a state? >> senator, i'm here to talk about the right to vote which falls to the 14th and 15th amendment and congress has
brought howard to -- >> ice you udall so green the through the 14th amendment it has brought power to protect other fundamental individual rights like religious freedom? what about gun laws? sure the state receive preclearance from federal officials? or adopting gun restrictions? >> this is not an area that are working in the civil rights division, the right to vote is unique and special and it is something that the supreme court has routinely said that congress has brought to the 14th amendment to protect. >> sure. those powers also accent of the rights of people have. i think it's important for us to remember that our nation is built on this principle of respect for the sovereign
entity that states are and for the ability for every sovereign state, through the elected representative, they should adopt laws that they deem fit. of course, the sovereign in our republic are the people. the people have yielded some of their sovereignty to the state, and of areas they've yielded it to the federal sovereign. the supreme court of the united states has made this clear. in number of cases over the years, including the supreme court ruling in the shelby county case, supreme court the united states says if they do not have a general right to review and beat them, bag enactment before they go into effect. they rejected, giving the
federal government the power to provide a veto over any state law. we don't have advocate for pre-clearance, the constitutional right belonging to individuals, if the laws passed by a state happen to violate the constitution you have a procedure in place, but it's challenging. the parties can litigate them, they are made to the legislative body. they fail to integrate them with the law. so, we have to be careful that we don't neglect this level of federalism in our law making process. we can't sacrifice this
principle. even for writes that we consider important. sovereignty of the people is important. if the states do use something unconstitutional there enactment can be unconstitutional and the enforcement of the law -- unfortunately we have a number of politicians and some progressives that are not satisfied with leaving voting procedures to the states. senator kamala harris in 2019 proposed to do things preclearance used to our state control over regulations. miss clark, when i hear from you, your marks a new testimony, one of the things i hear from you said the average american concerned about the integrity of our election is somehow based and racism. fortunately facts don't
suppress -- support that statement. >> such as the wall for gambling in georgia, somehow amounting to races voter suppression, and yet its provision has strong support from voters across the political spectrum, including among minority voters, can you tell me what exactly is racist about requiring a person to provide of photo i.d. when participating in the precious sacred, constitutionally protected process of election? >> thank you senator, the inquiry is whether or not a particular law is discriminatory, and we won't know that until we actually look at the facts. we look at the particular law at issue. we look at where it's being applied and are their racial disparities in terms of who has access, for example, to the
limited forms of i.d. that might be called for by a law. the inquiry is about discriminatory effects. >> i didn't want to interrupt him but senator klobuchar, i that because [inaudible] thank you senator. >> thank you mister chair, i just want to get some basic facts here. in the supreme court decision in shelby county, the majority wrote that it's a process for preclearance, this is the court decision that makes sense among the current conditions, it doesn't rely on the pass, how do the updates on the john doe's rights act respond to this? do you agree it's relevant in our current condition that this year alone over 400 million has
been introduced to rollback voting rights and at least 31 of them have been voted into law? >> thank you. it's tethering the -- also these hearings that congress has been conducting, since 2019 to be important because they provided an opportunity for congress to hear about those current conditions on the ground across the country. the bill also provides stronger protections for native americans and alaskan natives which is important we, and a number of other things including clarifying the standards defined in this statement and more. >> thank you very much. do you agree, and i know your familiar with the freedom to
vote act, and we know the the john lewis voting rights act will limit this from happening in the future. it would come back some of the states that have states have ald rules for this year. would you agree that in order to protect americans rights about congress must pass both john's and the freedom to vote act? >> thank you. we welcome the opportunity to work with congress and other ways that may strengthen voting rights in our country.
>> i was listening to senator lee's questions and it made me think about my own experience. about the new voting law, when major companies have come out against it. like reducing the number and availability of drop pockets, putting new limits on voting, changing the time of the runoff and not allowing for any weekend voting. making boaters put their birthday on the outside of the envelope instead of the date that they pass the ballot which is meant for confusion, not allowing for confusion during the runoff.
especially among voters of color. the department has pending litigation against the state of georgia. i cannot comment on pending litigation. what i can say is that case-by-case work that the department has been engaged in has not been an adequate substitute for the important work that we have been able to when we have a section five in place, blocking thousands of discriminatory voting from taking root in the country. >> finally, congressman john lewis called voting the most powerful tool we have to create a more perfect union. that his out i see it. with voting laws that involve things like registration, we
have elected democratic governors, republican governors and independent governors. the difference is not what party is elected, the changes that people -- to make some feel part of the franchise. we are making it easier for them to vote. why is it important to strengthen and restore their voting rights act, after several supreme court decisions have rolled back the justice department's ability to enforce laws of protection? >> the right to vote is one of the most important civil rights of our country. the right from which other civil rights are derived. it speaks to principles like the heart of our constitution. we know that the constitution of this body has drawn powers under the amendment to ensure that our elections are free from racial discrimination. we welcome this opportunity to work with you and other members
of the community to achieve that goal. thank you very much. >> senator blackburn? sen. blackburn: you are in charge of policing the civil rights division at the federal level. does it raise civil rights concerns when the government attempts to intimidate citizens who are exercising their first amendment freedom speech? ms. clarke: thank you. we do not want intimidation in our society. sen. blackburn: so it would concern you if there was an exercise against an individual's free-speech? ms. clarke: the first amendment is important and we also do not want society with intimidation. sen. blackburn: did president biden promise to keep the doj a political? ms. clarke: he has and attorney general garden has made clear the partisanship will not affect our work.
sen. blackburn: yes or no, did the teachers union write a letter asking you to use the patriot act to target concerned parents who voiced their opposition to the indoctrination of their children? ms. clarke: this is not a matter that the civil rights division handles. i am aware that memorandum issued by the attorney general which speaks to threats and intimidation that some school officials have experienced in our country. that is not activity protected by the first amendment. sen. blackburn: you are saying that a parent going to the school board and expressing their dismay with crt or the mask mandate, is not protected speech? ms. clarke: i believe the attorney general's memorandum deals with threats and intimidation and harassment. sen. blackburn: did the doj issue the directive to the fbi to target parents and direct
response to this letter from the teachers union? ms. clarke: again, this is not a matter that the division handles. the attorney general said that threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. sen. blackburn: do you believe it is appropriate to treat parents as domestic terrorists for daring to ask school board members questions about what is being taught to their children? ms. clarke: this is not a matter that the civil rights division handles. this is a memorandum handled by the attorney general. committee is committed to ensure robust discourse. sen. blackburn: do you see any difference in someone being a concerned parent and going to a school board meeting and asking
questions and then that individual being labeled as domestic terrorist and this being carried out by the fbi and doj? is that not a concern to you? ms. clarke: the attorney general's memorandum is focused on threats. sen. blackburn: you see parents asking questions as a threat? does the doj see parents asking questions as a threat? because we have seen reports from teachers, parents, and other members of a private facebook group in virginia that have been accused of compiling a list of names of district parents who oppose critical race theory in order to track back -- track, hack, and dox them to prohibit censorship.
will they be seen as domestic terrorists by the fbi as well? it is free-speech to track parents, but it is not free-speech for parents that want to show up at a school board meeting and make their displeasure known and engage in public discourse because those parents taxpayers are paying the bill for that? let me ask you this. attorney general garland. i have seen reports of his family connection to panorama over data harvesting and holding data on students and having contracts with school boards. we have had quite a bit of discussion about facebook and the way they market and data mine children as young as eight years old. are you aware that? ms. clarke: this is not an issue that the civil rights division -- sen. blackburn: you are working
with -- pipes and you have no knowledge or information about what is being done to parents and how they are being labeled and this directive for the fbi to go and investigate parents who are standing up for what their children are being subjected to in some public school systems? thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. for the sake of everyone here, the circumstances on the floor are fluid and there is negotiations and conversations back and forth at the leadership level. the democrat leader is asking for a caucus immediately after the end of this first roll call which will be soon. in fairness, i would like to have two less witnesses for we recessed. both of whom have been here
before this announcement senator kunz and senator cruz. i recognize senator kunz. sen. kunz: thank you. thank you for a lifetime of dedication to the constitution, to voting, to finding a way where there seems to be no way to fighting. for our democracy, which is the right to vote. i have a picture on my ipad and i'm smiling in this picture. i am with congressman lewis. i am at foot of the bridge and i am holding up a piece of legislation. it's a piece of legislation that we and our staff had worked on tirelessly over a year.
it was to fix the hole blown in the preclearance section of the voting rights act by the shelby county decision. a carefully balanced sensible approach toward restoring the effectiveness of free clearance the way that it is in this bill. in a minute, i will ask you to walk us through with that balance is that the now john lewis voting rights act would do. i have to say i am sick at heart. that day i was smiling because i was so hopeful and i was in the presence of a living saint. someone who had borne the blows and given his own blood and a dozen places across our country and a dozen instances set upon by a howling mob when he was on a greyhound us as part of the freedom rights. attacked by a klansman when he dared stand up to speak for his rights. challenged by folks who spit on him or beat him or attacked him or jailed him.
in the time i got to spend with him on five different pilgrimages in our country and to south africa, he struck me as one of the most generous, kindhearted, humorous, spirited people. the thing that always challenged me about john was that he believed in america far long before america believed in him. that he grew up in a town that was struggling, sweltering under racial oppression and he never gave up hope. i must confess, there are times now when i listen to my colleagues and the ways in which they are ignoring or mischaracterizing or aligning or misstating the work of the department of justice, the intention of this bill, that i am struggling to remain hopeful. i will just say this. if john could remain hopeful, if congressman lewis could remain hopeful, oddly confident, supremely, even serenely certain that in the end, democracy will win out, so must we. even in a moment when it seems so difficult, so hopeless.
i will challenge my republican colleagues to be true to the decades-old tradition of this voting rights act one by so much sacrifice being reauthorized and approved and improved over decades from 1965 to its most recent reauthorization. by negotiating together and finding a way forward. we have right in front of us a tremendous vehicle. the john lewis voting rights advancement act could be the path forward for that next step towards a more perfect union. if you would, we have heard today at this hearing objections that somehow subjecting certain localities to free clearance, fundamentally unfair. it's unfair to the citizens, it's an undue burden on their
state sovereignty. my recollection is we first crafted it, this formula doesn't punish or shame any particular locality. it ensures voters within a jurisdiction with a demonstrated pattern of screaming nation over 25 years are protected from further erosion of the rights and the formula permits the jurisdiction to emerge from free clearance after 10 years of a clean record. can you remind us in the minute i have given you, how that preclearance framework balances local government prerogatives to manage and control their electoral arrangements and
decisions with protections for them most important constitutional right, the right to vote? ms. clarke: if i may, i wanted to share a recollection of congressman lewis. i remember him being on the senate floor shaking the hands of members of this body in 2006 leading up to the 98-0 vote in favor of reauthorization. i hope and believe that level of bipartisan support for one of this body's most important federal civil rights laws remains possible today. the john r. lewis voting rights advancement act contains a number of provisions. a bailout provision that would allow jurisdictions with a clean fill of health a way to exempt themselves from the preclearance obligation. judicial review is available to jurisdictions that want to bypass the justice department and proceed to court. there is a long history of good and strong collaboration between the justice department and local and state election officials. the justice department has carried out its review of voting laws in 60 days or less. it has done so in a transparent manner publishing guidelines that walk the public and officials through the process. the process that it undertakes when reviewing a voting law.
we have heard from states like mississippi and north carolina told the supreme court in the shelby case that doj is flexible and has latitude in how they handle the section five process. i think this bill, again, makes clear that there is flexibility and latitude and respect for local and state jurisdictions that are administering their local law. the goal is simply about blocking and deterring discriminatory voting changes so they would never take root in a community. sen. coons: thank you for your testimony today and thank you for your determined and capable leadership. >> senator cruz? sen. cruz: thank you. when you testified before this committee, you both promised to be nonpartisan and impartial. i am sorry to say that i think neither of you have lived up to that promise.
within weeks of president biden being sworn in, the department of justice dismissed a civil rights division lawsuit against yale university for explicit racial discrimination. yale has a policy to -- discriminate and it does so brazenly. if the department justice decided that preventing racial discrimination did not fit within the purview of the biden doj. in your defense, you are not yet there. another was merrick garland. that was the initial political operatives doing what they believe was consistent with the preferences of the president. just this week, after you and merrick garland were there, the doj issued a memorandum to the fbi instructing them to mobilize against parents across the country.
parents of school kids who have the temerity to show up at school boards and express their opposition to the teaching of critical race theory. a theory that divides us on racial lines, that tells schoolchildren the lie that america is fundamentally racist, that it is irredeemably racist, that white people are racist. it spreads racial division. many parents are understandably quite dismayed at schools that are teaching this to their children. sometimes as young as five. yet the department justice looked at that issue and decided to label the parents objected to this teaching as domestic terrorists. did you participate in discussions about the memo before was issued? ms. clarke: i can't talk about internal deliberations. sen. cruz: you can't talk about if you participated in discussions about the memo?
ms. clarke: no, but what i can tell you is that the civil rights division will play a role going forward. attorney general has asked the department to undertake a review and the division will participate in that review to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute crimes. sen. cruz: do you believe parents objecting to the teaching of critical race theory have civil rights? ms. clarke: i don't follow the question. sen. cruz: you don't understand the question whether parents objecting to critical race theory have civil rights? ms. clarke: the first amendment is a core value in our democracy. sen. cruz: i didn't say free speech, i said civil rights. school boards are democratic. they are petitioning your local government. do they have civil rights? ms. clarke: they have the right to express their view, to challenge the school board.
sen. cruz: beneficial for the attorney general to label them as domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: the memo deals with threats against public servants. threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. sen. cruz: do you believe parents objecting at school boards are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: i don't. sen. cruz: do you believe antifa are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: i don't have a view about antifa. sen. cruz: do you believe the black lives matter protesters who looted and burned shops are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: we live in a society with people who espouse different views. sen. cruz: it is amazing you're not willing to condemn people who are murdering police officers and firebombing cities because of your politics aligns with them. but at the same time when it comes to parents and school boards, you are perfectly comfortable with calling a mom
at a pta meeting a domestic terrorist. this demonstrates why the democrat proposal to take someone with as long a partisan record as you have and to put you in charge of striking down any voting rights law in the country that you disagree with is nothing but a partisan power grab. let me give you another example. your division has operated in a purely partisan way. the doj dismissed the civil rights lawsuits against the state of new york, pennsylvania, michigan for those governors policies that sent covid positive patients into nursing homes, forced the nursing homes to take those patients. a political decision that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. one of those governors, andrew cuomo has resigned in disgrace and his staff admitted they lied under-reporting the death that policy caused yet your division dismissed the lawsuits against
those governors. how are we to see that as anything other than a purely partisan decision? ms. clarke: the letters that were issued to officials in the matters that you referenced were put together by career officials inside the department. sen. cruz: career officials can't be partisan? ms. clarke: this department carries out its work free from political -- sen. cruz: are you testifying there are no career officials at the doj who are partisan? ms. clarke: partisanship does not impact way that we carry out -- sen. cruz: yet you dismissed the lawsuits against them a credit governors even when their policies may have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people. you also dismissed a lawsuit that was brought against a medical center that had a pattern of discriminating against health care providers that are conscience reasons didn't want to implement abortions even though federal
law protects their civil rights. why did you dismissed that civil rights lawsuit in contravention of civil law? ms. clarke: general garland has made clear and i agree the partisanship has no place in the enforcement -- sen. cruz: yet your actions contradict the statements. >> your time is expired. we are going to stand in recess. i want to apologize to the witnesses on both sides, but this caucus has been called at the last minute and it relates to an issue of the debt ceiling. we will return and i ask you to stand at ease until the opportunity presents itself. the committee stands in recess.