Democracy is our most fundamental national interest, and it’s the one that helps us secure all other national interests, from religious freedom and worker rights to combating international terrorism and crime, expanding global markets, and improving human health.
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It Added New Protection For Voters
In the face of a growing wave of voter suppression tactics like unjust polling place closings, disenfranchisement laws built on top of our system of mass incarceration, and restrictive voter ID requirements, Congress must ensure that Americans’ most fundamental civil right is protected. The Leadership Conference is proud to co-sponsor the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, an urgent bill to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.
The bill, named after a legendary Congressman and civil rights leader, would update the coverage formula that requires states with a history of discrimination to submit changes in their voting laws to the Department of Justice for preclearance before they take effect. It would also make permanent a provision that allows jurisdictions to “bail in” to the process by showing they have no history of discrimination.
It would codify nine Senate factors—including a state’s history of official discrimination, the extent to which it has racial polarization in voting patterns, and the extent to which it has experienced recent voting rights violations—that courts have long used to evaluate whether a state’s current election laws are likely to dilute the votes of minority voters. It also adds new protections to ensure voters on Indian tribal lands can vote equally.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would prevent future attempts to erect barriers that keep people of color from exercising their most basic civic duty, and it is essential to ensuring the nation’s democracy remains strong. The Senate must do its part to pass the bill and stop using the filibuster—an arcane rule with a long, racist history—to block it.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Restored
The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) joined a coalition led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to urge the Senate to pass two critical pieces of legislation to protect Americans’ voting freedom. The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are vital to countering voter suppression laws that have swept across the country, targeting communities of color.
After the Supreme Court gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 decision, states began enacting discriminatory voting laws and practices. This included unjust voter purges, restrictive photo ID requirements, and polling location closures in communities of color. Many Americans, including the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, have marched, bled, and been jailed for the right to vote. A decade after the Supreme Court rolled back the Voting Rights Act, it is clear that we must restore it and strengthen it for all Americans.
It Prevents Discrimination
Named after the Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader beaten by state troopers while leading the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march, this bill would restore the federal government’s power to oversee election laws in states and localities with a history of racial discrimination. It updates the coverage formula struck down by the Supreme Court to ensure that states with a history of discrimination still have their voting laws reviewed for racial discrimination before they take effect.
Since the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder and again in Brnovich v. DNC, states and localities have brazenly pushed forward several discriminatory changes to voting practices, including unjust voter purges, intimidating polling places in communities of color, restrictive voter photo ID requirements and more. These changes disenfranchise Black and Brown voters who have been fighting for their right to vote for decades and threaten our democracy.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will prevent these harmful new voting restrictions by ensuring that the Justice Department can review any change to voting rules in a covered jurisdiction that a court of law has not approved as non-discriminatory or fair. The bill also strengthens existing Section 2 protections by instructing courts to consider other forms of discrimination when hearing these cases.
It Prevents Restrictions
The John Lewis Act is essential to the Democrats’ plan to stop voter suppression. It restores and modernizes Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states and localities with a history of voting discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing their voting laws. This ensures that states can’t discriminate against their citizens and that the Department of Justice can prevent any changes from jeopardizing many people’s constitutional right to vote.
The Act also clarifies the criteria for violating Section 2, which has long been used to evaluate state and local policies for their impact on minority voters. The bill codifies the nine Senate factors that were outlined in a 1982 report accompanying the Voting Rights Act amendments and are widely used by federal courts to evaluate whether a policy is likely to cause or contribute to vote dilution, making it much easier for victims of discrimination to prove that their rights are being violated.
For generations, Americans from all walks of life have marched, bled, and even died for the right to vote in this country. The John Lewis Act would honor their legacy by protecting the most fundamental rights our democracy has to offer. This is what voters want and what Congress must pass to secure our democracy for future generations.
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