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Should Congress restore key part of Voting Rights Act? House hears both sides.

A House subcommittee hosted an exchange of views Thursday about the meaning of and potential fallout from the US Supreme Court’s decision last month that struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act.

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Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia (l.), who marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., turns to thank Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin, as he finishes his testimony in support of the Voting Rights Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, July 17.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Voting rights experts presented sharply divergent opinions to a House Judiciary subcommittee on Thursday as members of Congress tried to assess the impact of the US Supreme Court’s decision striking down a portion of the Voting Rights Act.

Some analysts told the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice that the remaining provisions of the VRA were more than enough to safeguard minority voting rights. Others said the high court’s action marked a considerable setback to future efforts to fight discrimination in the United States.

“We have made amazing progress in this country over the last 50 years,” said Spencer Overton, a voting rights scholar and professor at George Washington University Law School. “Unfortunately, evidence shows that too many political operatives maintain power by manipulating election rules based on how voters look and speak.”

Professor Overton said Congress must update the VRA and reauthorize the section struck down by the Supreme Court.

In contrast, J. Christian Adams, a voting rights specialist and former Justice Department lawyer, said the high court left untouched provisions that empower private citizens, civil rights groups, and the Justice Department to sue to block any attempt to discriminate in voting.

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