50 Years After Landmark Legislation, Durbin Calls Attention To Voting Rights During Nomination Hearing For New Attorney General

Senator Also Questions Nominee Loretta Lynch On Criminal Justice Reform

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and top Democrat on the Constitution Subcommittee, today raised concerns regarding voting rights and criminal justice reform with Loretta Lynch, who is nominated to be Attorney General of the United States, during the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on her nomination. Lynch currently serves as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a position she has held since 2010. 

During today’s hearing, Durbin asked Lynch about numerous state laws that are making it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.

Speaking to Lynch, Durbin said: “I find it ironic and painful that at this moment in our history – as we celebrate the movie Selma and the 50-year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act – that many states, on a systematic basis, are making it more difficult for Americans to vote. It troubles me that amidst all the celebration of the Civil Rights movement, we are finding a reversal of that most fundamental principle, preserving the right to vote, and I appreciate what you had to say about it.”


As Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Durbin held a series of hearings on new state voting laws that create barriers to the ballot.  In September 2011, his Subcommittee held the first Congressional hearing to examine whether these state voting laws threaten the right to vote. More information on that hearing can be found here


In January 2012 and May 2012, Durbin chaired field hearings in Tampa, Florida and Cleveland, Ohio, respectively, on each of those states’ restrictive new voting laws. More information on those hearings can be found here and here.


Today Durbin also called attention to outdated mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that are unfair, fiscally irresponsible and a threat to public safety. Durbin – with U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) – authored the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act, which would modernize our drug sentencing polices by giving federal judges more discretion in sentencing those convicted of non-violent offenses.


Durbin has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 16 years. He is also the Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, formerly known as the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. The Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all constitutional issues.


A photo of Senator Durbin’s meeting with Loretta Lynch following her nomination is available here.


Video of Durbin’s remarks during today’s hearing will be available shortly here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks during today’s hearing is available here.