Senate Must Pass Crucial Bills Protecting Americans’ Freedom To Vote

Two women stand among trees in front of the Capitol Building holding large letters that say "Voting Rights". A sign in between them reads "Protect our freedom to vote"
Protesting recent anti-voter legislation in states across the country, demonstrators at the Freedom to Vote rally near the U.S. Capitol to pressure congress to pass The Freedom to Vote Act, The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and enact DC Statehood bills. Washington, DC, Oct. 23, 2021. Photo by Bob Korn / Alamy Stock Photo

No matter our race, background or zip code most of us believe that for democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all. 

This week was a disappointing one on Capitol Hill for Americans’ freedom to vote and for this principle. On Nov. 3, 2021, the Senate failed to advance S. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to debate.   

With all 50 Senate Democrats and only one Republican supporting moving the bill to debate and floor action, it was stopped just as Senate Republicans blocked the For the People Act in June and August and then the Freedom to Vote Act last month.  

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is crucial legislation because it would help stop discriminatory barriers to voting for voters of color. It would do this by restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) after it was weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court in two decisions over the past decade. 

This bill is a commonsense measure to restore the VRA, which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has rightly called, “an extraordinary law... Never has a statute done more to advance the Nation’s highest ideals.”  

Americans broadly support the VRA, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is popular, as well. Likewise, the VRA has a long track record of earning overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, and the last time it was renewed, in 2006, the Senate passed it with a vote of 98-0.  

The vote yesterday was the first time the Senate has acted to repair the damage after the Supreme Court gutted a core provision in the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder eight years ago and four months after another weakening decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.  

Senate Democrats need to figure out the path forward to get a vote on this crucial bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is working with the Democratic Caucus to determine what the options are and how to restore the Senate, so we can pass this crucial election legislation. 

Inaction is not an option, and we aren’t going to stop fighting for this bill and others, including the Freedom to Vote Act.  

Whatever our color, background or zip code, in America we value our freedom. Congress passed the VRA in 1965 to protect our freedom to vote and ensure that attempts to discriminate against voters are formally reviewed.

In the 1960s and throughout our history, we've fought to ensure more Americans have our right to vote honored and that every American can cast our vote and have it counted. But today, a handful of politicians want to set us back, making it harder to vote and creating barriers to register for Black, young and new Americans.  

To move forward together, we must ensure that Americans can cast our ballots to elect leaders who govern in our interests and make the promise of our democracy real for all of us. It’s time for President Biden to raise his voice in support and for the Senate to pass these crucial voting rights bills. 

Jo is CLC's Director, Legislative Strategy.
A Basic Overview of What S. 4 Does