Passage of John Lewis Bill in House Is Critical Step. Now the Senate Must Act
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, otherwise known as the VRAA or H.R. 4.
Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, released the following statement:
“At this pivotal moment for the future of our country, the House has taken a critical step to prevent states from passing voting laws that discriminate against racial minorities. Now the pressure is on the Senate to act. The Department of Justice does not currently have the tools it needs to hold states with a history of discrimination in voting accountable for passing discriminatory voting laws. The Voting Rights Act has a long track record of earning overwhelming bipartisan support, as protecting voting access was a goal that transcended the political divide. By passing H.R. 4, Congress would strengthen the guardrails of democracy and stop attacks on Americans’ freedom to vote in their tracks. All voters should have a say in the future direction of our country.”
In a hearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary on Aug. 16, 2021, witness testimony demonstrated the urgency of congressional action addressing challenges faced by communities of color with access to voting. According to a recent report released by CLC, at least four states that passed restrictive laws in the first half of this year would have been subject to preclearance if the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act were in place – which would have required them to prove to the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court that their laws did not discriminate against voters of color. Under the new formula provided by the VRAA, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia would likely be subject to preclearance.
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 was renewed by Congress five times after hours of hearings proving the persistence of racial discrimination in voting laws and the law’s unequivocal success at combatting it. If the end of the twentieth century was a period of voting rights expansion, the twenty first century has been a period of rising attacks on voting rights. Signed into law on July 27, 2006 by former President George W. Bush, the most recent renewal of the VRA followed many hours of hearings that demonstrated the persistence of racially targeted policies in our democracy and the continued effectiveness of this law in combatting them. It passed the Senate that year 98-0.
Attacks on voting rights have reached a new fever pitch after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder. In the past decade, Americans have seen cutbacks to early voting periods, new burdensome requirements to cast and restrictions on the right of civic groups to assist citizens in participating fully in the democratic process.