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House Passes John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which supporters say would reestablish critical sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that recent Supreme Court decisions have overturned.

The vote was 219-212 among party lines, with not a single Republican voting for the bill.

“It’s an act to restore and expand voting protections, to prevent voter suppression and to secure the most sacred of American rights: the right to vote freely, the right to vote fairly and the right to have your vote counted,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday. “The House has acted. The Senate also has to join them to send this important bill to my desk.”

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., specifically addresses the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County vs. Holder, which stripped the 1965 Voting Rights Act of its preclearance section.

Before the Shelby decision, several states had to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice before they made any changes to their elections laws, a provision intended to eradicate Jim Crow-era voting discrimination. Now, in light of what Democrats see as Republican efforts at the state level to restrict access to the ballot box, the John Lewis Act seeks to reinstate preclearance.

“It was in our district, Alabama’s 7th Congressional District in my hometown of Selma, that brave men and women – Black and white – led by our former colleague John Lewis dared to march, pray and some even died in order to ensure that all Americans have equal rights at the ballot box,” Rep. Sewell, the sponsor of the bill, said before the vote.

The legislation faces an uphill battle in the evenly-split Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass. Earlier this year, Republicans blocked the For The People Act, an expansive voting rights bill, by filibustering a procedural vote to debate the legislation.

Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “voting rights will be the first matter of legislative business when the Senate returns to session in September. Our democracy demands no less.”

The bill is named after the late Congressman John Lewis, who Vice President Kamala Harris said Tuesday “dedicated his life to fighting for our nation’s highest ideals.”

“This important step represents progress, but there is more work to do,” Harris said in a statement. “The Senate must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act so it can become the law of the land and protect voters across the country.”

 

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