Rep. Sewell Calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Take Up and Pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020
July 26, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent House Concurrent Resolution 107 to rename H.R. 4 the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), who introduced and shepherded H.R. 4 through the House of Representatives last year, praised the decision to rename the legislation for her late colleague, mentor and friend.
“There is no better way to honor Congressman Lewis’ legacy than to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that every American – regardless of color – is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. It is fitting that the House moved today to rename H.R. 4 in John’s name,” Sewell said. “The bill has been languishing in Senate Majority Leader McConnell's legislative graveyard for 234 days. McConnell has taken to the floor to honor John, but the most significant thing he can do is to bring up the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 for a vote. Now is the time for action to honor John’s legacy!”
The Supreme Courts’ 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlined the qualifications needed to determine which states are required by the Justice Department to pre-clear elections changes in states with a history of voter discrimination.
Since the Shelby decision, nearly two-dozen states have implemented restrictive voter ID laws and previously-covered states have closed or consolidated polling places, shortened early voting and imposed other measures that restrict voting.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 seeks to restore the VRA by developing a process to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice. It will also require a nationwide, practice-based pre-clearance of known discriminatory practices, including the creation of at-large districts, inadequate multilingual voting materials, cuts to polling places, changes that reduce the days or hours of in person voting on Sundays during the early voting period and changes to the maintenance of voter registration lists that adds a basis or institutes a new process for removal from the lists, where the jurisdiction includes racial or language minority populations above a certain percent threshold.
Under the legislation, there are three ways to become a covered jurisdiction that is required to pre-clear election changes:
1. States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years; or
2. States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years; or
3. Political subdivisions or localities with 3 or more violations in that subdivision in the previous 25 years.
The bill is supported by more than 60 national organizations, including the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Native American Rights Fund, League of Women Voters of the United States, AAUW, ACLU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Communications Workers of America, SEIU, UAW, Democracy 21, Democracy Initiative, End Citizens United Action Fund, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.