Rep. Sewell Votes to Pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, Urges Swift Senate Action
Washington D.C. — Today, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) voted to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and send this voting rights legislation to the Senate. The bill, which combines critical provisions of the Senate’s Freedom to Vote Act and the House-passed John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (introduced by Rep. Sewell in August), passed in the House today by a vote of 220 to 203. Rep. Sewell spoke on the House Floor this morning urging the Senate to take swift action. Her remarks are included below:
Rep. Sewell: Mr. Speaker, as you know, voting rights is personal to me. It was in my hometown in 1965 on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, where John Lewis and the Foot Soldiers shed blood for the equal right of all Americans to vote.
Fifty-six years later, old battles have become new again as state legislatures erect direct barriers to the ballot box. 400 bills introduced. Thirty-four passed in nineteen states.
Once again, our nation is at an inflection point. Today, the House of Representatives will once again send voting rights over to the Senate and it MUST pass, Mr. Speaker.
I implore our Senators: Do what is right! You have changed your rules 150 times, most recently to raise the debt ceiling. If you can protect the full faith and credit of the United States, surely you can protect democracy.
The time is now. What we need is courage.
As we prepare to observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, let us remember that justice delayed can be justice denied.
Senators, we need your leadership. We need it now.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act: This bill 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. In doing so, it would prevent states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by requiring such jurisdictions to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before changing election laws. The bill passed the House of Representatives in August 2021 by a vote of 219-213.
The Freedom to Vote Act: The Senate-introduced Freedom to Vote Act sets basic nationwide standards for how elections are conducted and ensures that the voices of all Americans are heard. It includes:
- Expanding automatic voter registration and same-day registration;
- Strengthening vote by mail, early voting and ballot access;
- Establishing Election Day as a national holiday;
- Stopping partisan election subversion.
- Protecting elections from foreign interference;
- Ending partisan gerrymandering;
- Promoting digital ad transparency;
- Forcing disclosure of dark money; and
- Establishing a self-sustaining democracy fund to support investments in state-led innovations around campaign finance, civic education and voting infrastructure.
. . .
Rep. Terri Sewell is the author and lead sponsor of H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after it was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. On August 24, 2021, H.R. 4 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-213. On November 3, 2021, it failed in the Senate after nearly every Senate Republican voted to block debate on the bill. In the absence of robust Republican support, Congresswoman Sewell has led her colleagues in calling on the Senate to reform its rules and pass H.R. 4.