Yesterday, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell introduced H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
The legislation would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), which were gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and more recently in the 2021 Brnovich v. DNC decision.
The bill aims to protect voters from discrimination by restoring and strengthening the protections of the VRA. The introduction of H.R. 4 comes amid the most coordinated state-level effort to restrict the right to vote in generations. It follows a months-long investigation by the House Committee on Administration and House Committee on the Judiciary into the status of voting rights in America.
“The right to vote is the most sacred and fundamental right we enjoy as American citizens and one that the Foot Soldiers fought, bled, and died for in my hometown of Selma, Alabama,” said Rep. Sewell. “Today, old battles have become new again as we face the most pernicious assault on the right to vote in generations. It’s clear: federal oversight is urgently needed. With the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, we’re standing up and fighting back.
For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) ensured equal access to the ballot box for Black and minority voters by requiring states and localities with a history of voter discrimination—as determined in Section 4—to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws.
However, in its infamous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down Section 4, arguing that voter discrimination was an issue of the past and the formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to preclearance was outdated.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore protections of the VRA gutted by the Supreme Court. It would once again prohibit states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by including an updated formula for determining which states and localities are subject to federal oversight.
It would also amend Section 2 of the VRA to eliminate the heightened standard for challenging voter discrimination that the Supreme Court created in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC.“
The House today is taking a momentous step to secure the sacred right to vote for generations to come,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “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.”
“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.”