Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

VIDEO: Rep. Sewell Takes to the House Floor Ahead of House Vote on H.R. 4

Dec 5, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) took to the House floor today in support of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, an advance of the bill’s consideration on Friday.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act addresses the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The legislation will help stop the most egregious forms of recent voter suppression by developing a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice.

“No right is more precious to our citizenship than the right of all Americans to be able to vote,” Sewell said. “When Americans are not able to cast their ballots, their votes are silenced. And we, especially as elected officials, should be alarmed if any American who wants to cast a ballot is unable to cast a ballot.”

“It's clear to me that since the Shelby v. Holder decision, so many states have now instituted voter discrimination laws. Some of them have been in the guise of voter fraud,” Sewell continued. “But it's not about voter fraud, it's about voter suppression, suppressing the voice of certain Americans, and that's un-American.”

You can watch her full remarks here and a rush transcript can be found below.

 

Remarks on the House Floor

Rep. Terri Sewell

December 5, 2019

Rep. Sewell: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I proudly rise to support the rule of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019.

Voting rights are primal. They are the cornerstone of our democracy. No right is more precious to our citizenship than the right of all Americans to be able to vote.

When Americans are not able to cast their ballots, their votes are silenced. And we, especially as elected officials, should be alarmed if any American who wants to cast a ballot is unable to cast a ballot.

What H.R. 4 does is it restores the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by giving a new coverage formula. In fact, the Roberts Court specifically said in striking down Section 4b that it was outdated. And, so, H.R. 4 is our effort, the efforts of two, three committees, hours of testimony, lots and lots of stake holders, lots and lots of people who were American citizens, not able to vote, it is that effort that led to a narrowly tailored new coverage formula, that the coverage formula doesn't look back to the 1960's or 1970's. It looks back 25 years. 1994 and going forward. And it requires adjudicated violations of voting discrimination. It is narrowly tailored, and it hits the mark as to what the Supreme Court requires us to do in signaling that Congress could feel free to update its coverage formula.

The Supreme Court in Roberts and his opinion said that voter discrimination still existed. It admitted that it still existed, and H.R. 4 is our effort to actually provide a modern-day voter coverage formula that will allow states and jurisdictions with the most egregious forms of discrimination to be required to pre-clear.

You know, the Shelby v. Holder decision originated out of Shelby County, Alabama. I'm honored every day to represent Alabama's 7th Congressional District. It is a district that knows all too well the importance of voting. You see, my district includes not only Birmingham and Montgomery, but my hometown of Selma, Alabama. And it was on a bridge in my hometown that our colleague, John Lewis, and so many other foot soldiers bled on that bridge for the equal right of all Americans to be able to vote.

This is exactly what H.R. 4 does. It restores to the full protection the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and, in so doing, it provides a mechanism by which the most egregious states and localities must pre-clear before the elections.

It's so hard to un-ring the bell once an election has taken place. So, section 2, while it has been used to litigate and to be able to get good results, it only can occur after the election has taken place.

So, I say to you, Mr. Speaker, it's not only an important piece of legislation to our nation, to ensure every American, American, who has the ability, who's 18 years of age or older, has the right to access a ballot box.

It's clear to me that since the Shelby v. Holder decision so many states have now instituted voter discrimination laws. Some of them have been in the guise of voter fraud, but the Brennan Center and so many others have found that voter fraud happens minusculey in every election.

It's not about voter fraud -- it's about voter suppression, suppressing the voice of certain Americans, and that's un-American, Mr. Speaker.

Just in the 2018 mid-term elections alone highlights the voter discrimination that occurred. In Georgia, the Republican candidate for governor used his power as secretary of state to put 53,000 voter registrations on hold, nearly 70% of which belonged to African American voters. in North Dakota, Republicans established a new requirement that voters must show an ID that they live in a residential street address. It's not enough they had a P.O. box. that law was a barrier to thousands of Native Americans who live on reservations and use P.O. boxes rather than residential addresses.

I say this is a seminal piece of legislation that will restore, for the people, Republicans and Democrats should be about making sure it's easier to vote, not harder to vote.

I ask my colleagues to vote for the rule and for the underlying legislation, H.R. 4, and I yield back the balance of my time.