The Importance of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
Amid an onslaught of new laws making it harder for people to vote, House Democrats have introduced a bill to protect the right to vote and safeguard our democracy. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the late civil rights icon and longtime Congressman, would restore and modernize full protections under the Voting Rights Act.
In the weeks since the Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in a majority decision, states have passed nearly three dozen laws intended to restrict voting access or otherwise interfere with the election process. Many of these measures have been approved by Republican officials who believe they’ll help them claim victory in upcoming elections.
To combat this, Democrats are pushing legislation they hope will slow the rollout of these anti-voting bills. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize the full protections of the 1965 law, bringing back the preclearance requirement that was all but eliminated in Shelby County v. Holder.
The bill would establish a new coverage formula to determine which states and localities need federal oversight. It would allow the Justice Department to review state and local changes to electoral procedures before they go into effect. It also includes protections against wrongful voter purges and increased transparency.
For decades, the most important tool for protecting voting rights was preclearance. That provision required places with a history of discrimination to get the approval of the Department of Justice before making any changes to their local election laws.
This was a vital safeguard that allowed Congress and our federal courts to ensure that these states and localities were not disenfranchising their voters and kept some of the most egregious attempts at voter suppression out of the country altogether.
Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon, this bill would restore and modernize the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder eviscerated. It creates a new, modern-day formula to identify states and localities with a recent history of discrimination that requires preclearance to prevent restrictive and discriminatory voting laws from taking effect.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also strengthens the Section 2 portion of the VRA by eliminating the heightened standard created by Brnovich v. DNC for challenges to voting rights violations.
Across the country, Republicans are pushing to make it harder for Americans to vote, especially those in communities of color. Amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and a national reckoning about racial inequity, we must continue to protect the right to vote against those who seek to undermine it.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would help by ensuring that the Department of Justice can challenge and enforce any state or locality’s laws that violate the Constitution and federal law.
It would also protect against wrongful voter purges by requiring that states make information about changes to their voting laws publicly available. This legislation has 47 Senate cosponsors and deserves support to carry on the work of a man who dedicated his life to advancing democracy for all Americans.
As we celebrate the legacy of Congressman John Lewis — who stood with courage and conviction on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and devoted his life to the fight for voting rights and civil rights — Senate Democrats are fighting against nationwide efforts to restrict access to our democracy.
In the face of a Supreme Court decision that rolled back parts of the Voting Rights Act and the enactment of state laws that make it harder to vote, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the law’s core protections.
The bill would address states’ continued discriminatory efforts to disenfranchise voters, including requiring photo ID to vote and reducing the availability of multilingual ballots and voter assistance materials. It also addresses the impact of wrongful voter purges and provides safeguards against these practices.
It creates a new formula for determining whether states need federal oversight to ensure that all Americans can vote freely and without discrimination while modernizing the most successful civil rights law in history to meet the challenges of our time.
The League of Women Voters strongly supports reintroducing this vital legislation and is confident it will help restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and improve our nation’s elections. We call on our fellow members of the Senate to support it.
Named after the late Congressman and civil rights icon, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) to our democracy. It creates a new modern-day formula to determine which states and localities must preclear any changes to their voting laws, preventing restrictive and discriminatory practices from taking effect.
The bill also re-establishes Section 2 of the VRA by eliminating the heightened standard for challenging discriminatory law recently established by the Supreme Court in Brnovich v. DNC.
The legislation would expand enforcement to allow advocacy groups and voters to file their litigation against covered jurisdictions that fail to comply with the requirements of Section 5. In addition, it re-institutes a requirement that federal courts review any standards, practices, or procedures for their impact on the right to vote that are stricter than those required under Federal law.
The bill is an essential part of our democracy and critical to ensuring all Americans have access to the ballot box. This is especially true for communities of color, who are targeted by a wave of anti-voting laws.