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Contrary to news speculation and public opinion, House Democrats are not obsessed with impeaching Trump, justified as that effort may become.

Beyond trying to get the government back open, their first order of business has been to focus on strengthening the fundamental freedom that makes our democracy work – voting.

They are working on a bill that would correct the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder Supreme Court 5-4 decision that declared Provision 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional.

That decision precipitated numerous states controlled by Republicans such as Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, and several others passing laws making voting more difficult and less accessible to minorities.

Provision 4 was the formula used to determine which state jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination had to submit changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice.

It was called “preclearance” that required the Justice Department to sign off on any voting rights change before it could be implemented.

From 1982 to 2006 Provision 4 blocked more than 700 discriminatory efforts by Republican led legislatures.

Then came the 2013 Supreme Court that gave conservatives who have long opposed the Voting Rights Acts a major victory.

The Roberts Court ruled the formula was unconstitutional on the basis that the country had made progress in overcoming racial discrimination wherein “pre-clearance” was out of date. “History did not end in 1965,” is how Chief Justice John Roberts put it in his majority opinion.

Roberts himself was an opponent of the Voting Rights Act when he was a Justice Department lawyer. The 2013 case gave him the opportunity to render it toothless.

He says he believes in the principle of “color blindness” conservatives generally embrace. It means voting laws should reflect no bias regarding race one way or the other, as if they were “color blind.”

That sounds like a noble ideal, except that it means it is not enough that a law is discriminatory. You have to prove it was the intent of the legislatures to discriminate when the law was passed.

That is a hill virtually impossible to climb, especially as Republicans insist their laws are intended to prevent voter fraud. That claim is itself as fraudulent as one can be.

Republicans have never, ever proven that fraud actually exists on any wide scale. More than that, none of the laws passed would prevent the kind of voter fraud Republicans talk about.

Voter IDs, reducing the number of voting precincts, days for voter registration and early voting have nothing to do with fraud and everything to do with voter suppression.

The Roberts Court wittingly or unwittingly opened the door to all of this, thereby making it complicit in undermining the right to vote directly and our very democracy indirectly.

Some of the laws passed since 2013 have been struck down by lower courts, but more than a few onerous provisions have survived court challenges without any serious justification for them except making voting more difficult.

House Democrats see all these laws as a threat to our democracy and that is why they want to renew the Voting Rights Act in its entirety.

Because of Republican opposition, the fate of the House bill in the Senate will depend on four Republicans breaking rank and supporting the right to vote without undue hardship, if they can get Mitch McConnell to allow a vote in the first place.

In addition, the House has already passed a bill that will make voting easier in federal elections everywhere. That, too, will face an uncertain fate in the Senate.

But these bills vividly expose the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats support making it easier for as many Americans as possible to vote. Republicans don’t.

It’s just that simple, and the conservative justices on the Supreme Court are helping them.

They cannot prevail if we value the form of democracy we have.

I am reminded of the apocryphal story of what Benjamin Franklin said to a Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia when she asked him at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787: “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

It is up to all of us to ensure that we do.

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