Dear Mr. R:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding House of Representatives Bill 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and Senate Bill 2747, the Freedom to Vote Act. I appreciate hearing from you.
H.R. 4 was introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and subsequently passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212. It now awaits action in the Senate. This legislation would create a new formula for portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County (Ala.) v. Holder in 2013. Specifically, in Shelby County (Ala.) v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the formula used in Section 4(b), a formula used to determine which states were required to obtain preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice prior to changing their voting laws.
In regards to S. 2747, it was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. I voted against a procedural motion to advance this legislation, which ultimately failed by a vote of 49-51. This bill would make sweeping changes to voting access, campaign finance, and government ethics.
I do not support either bill in their current form, as they strip away states' rights to conduct elections as they see fit. Provisions in this legislation make changes to state voter ID laws, require states to restore the ability of felons to vote, and transfer the right to draw congressional districts from state legislatures to independent commissions.
Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once described individual states as "laboratories of democracy." He got it right. As a former state legislator and governor, I have learned the most truly innovative solutions to problems are proposed by the states.
While I serve in the United States Senate, I will vote in such a way to put certain issues back in the hands of state legislatures. In addition, I will always work to maintain and defend the rights of the states as guaranteed by our Constitution.
Again, I value your effort to get in touch with me to share your thoughts, as many Idahoans do. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future on this or other issues.
Very Truly Yours,
James E. Risch
United State Senator
Boise - 208.342.7985
Coeur d'Alene - 208.667.6130
Idaho Falls - 208.523.5541
Lewiston - 208.743.0792
Pocatello - 208.236.6817
Twin Falls - 208.734.6780
Washington, D.C. - 202.224.2752