House Democrats Unveil John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday introduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which aims to strengthen federal protections of voting rights as numerous Republican state legislatures throughout the country seek to disenfranchise millions of people.
Introduced by Democratic Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the bill is a resurrection of the Voting Rights Act, which has been gutted by the conservative-majority United States Supreme Court in recent years.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was only made possible because of the personal sacrifices of amazing foot soldiers, many known and unknown, right here on this bridge, in my hometown 56 years ago,” Sewell said in her hometown of Selma, where the Civil Rights Movement was born.
The late Congressman John Lewis (D-AL), who died last year, was one of its pioneers, having marched alongside Doctor Martin Luther King Junior and survived having his skull cracked during the infamous “Bloody Sunday” in 1965.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) touted the need for the legislation in a lengthy statement:
The House today is taking a momentous step to secure the sacred right to vote for generations to come. With the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, proudly introduced today by Congresswoman Terri Sewell alongside Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Democrats are fighting back against an anti-democratic tide, protecting access to the ballot box for every American and carrying on the cause to which our beloved John Lewis devoted his entire life.
A brazen, partisan campaign of voter suppression silences voters of color across the nation and threatens to erode our democracy. Further, the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Shelby v. Holder opened the floodgates of voter suppression, allowing states with dark histories of bigotry and discrimination to pass hundreds of laws designed to keep communities of color from the ballot box. This year alone, eighteen states have enacted thirty dangerous voter suppression laws, while the Court has continued its assault on the Voting Rights Act with its shameful decision in Brnovich v. DNC.
As confirmed in a recent House report, Congress has not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility to enact H.R. 4 to combat destructive and discriminatory voter suppression. In doing so, we live up to the powerful legacy of this bill’s late namesake, Congressman Lewis: a titan of the Civil Rights Movement and a courageous champion for voting rights.
With the attack on the franchise escalating and states beginning the process of redistricting, we must act. When the House returns on August 23rd, Democrats plan to pass H.R. 4 – and we hope it can secure the bipartisan support this vital legislation deserves. We must also enact H.R. 1, the For The People Act, to ensure that every American has a say in the destiny of our democracy.
Congressional lawmakers will vote on the bill when they reconvene next week at the end of their August recess.