The U.S. House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Tuesday. The legislation will revive a vital provision of the Voting Rights Act, which was ruled unconstitutional in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder ruling. The portion in the voting rights act allowed for federal review of discriminatory voting laws and practices, ensuring that millions of voters, particularly Black and other communities of color, have access to the ballot box, free from discrimination.
The bill is named after civil rights icon and congressman, John Lewis who passed away in 2020. The house voted across party lines with 219 Democrats in favor and all 212 Republicans opposed. The bill, known as H.R.4, aims to strengthen the Voting Rights act of 1965. This bill comes as laws restricting citizen’s right to vote are passed in Republican-controlled state legislatures.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act will increase the power of the minorities and the federal government to block or challenge discriminatory election rules. In a tweet, Democrat Representative Terri Sewell (AL) said, “John knew that the fight for justice never truly ends. Each generation must fight & fight again to preserve the progress of the past and advance it. Now it’s our turn.
In a statement, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under law, Damon Hewitt, said, The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will ensure that communities of color secure their voice in our democracy, achieve equal representation in our federal government, and protect our collective voting power from partisan attacks. Much like the initial 1965 Voting Rights Act, this is transformative legislation that will keep our nation committed to realizing its ideal of a fully inclusive democracy for years to come. It is imperative that the U.S. Senate quickly take up and pass this legislation.”
The Bill now heads to the Senate in what is sure to be an uphill battle. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), is expected to support the bill. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the formula used to determine which areas were allowed to enact voting changes or new district maps without permission was unconstitutional. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement act restores requiring permission from the federal government before passing voting changes or redistricting.
Republicans claim the bill is “partisan” and is an effort by Democrats to monopolize federal elections. “After they failed to gain enough support from their own party to get H.R. 1 across the finish line, Democrats are now trying a back-door attempt at nationalizing our elections to ensure their party remains in power for years to come, said Illinois Representative Rodney Davis.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act requires a three-fifths majority to pass.