Group urges House to pass HR4, Senate to pass HR4 and S1 before Congressional redistricting
ATLANTA — Today, Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, released a statement celebrating the introduction of HR4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The group called on members of the House to swiftly advance HR4 and urged the Senate to pass the For the People Act (S1).
U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) unveiled the bill in Selma, Alabama at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where she called on her colleagues in the House to pass HR4 to honor the legacy of Congressman John R. Lewis and the other brave Foot Soldiers who dedicated their lives to fighting for the fundamental right to vote.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act provides much-needed tools to stop discriminatory voting practices and laws in their tracks and discourage their enactment in the future. The bill would update and strengthen the critical preclearance protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by expanding and modernizing the geographic coverage formula and establishing practice-based preclearance. Together, these provisions would make significant strides toward stemming the tide of anti-voter, anti-democratic legislation moving in nearly every state legislature.
Prior to the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the Department of Justice blocked over 3,000 discriminatory voting changes during the over half century preclearance was in effect. In the aftermath of the Shelby County decision, formerly covered jurisdictions moved with lightning speed to enact voting restrictions that would have been—or were in fact—blocked under preclearance, and others soon followed suit.
Over 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 49 state legislatures in 2021 alone. With the recent Supreme Court ruling in Brnovich v. DNC further weakening the protections of the Voting Rights Act, the urgent need for federal action to protect the freedom to vote is greater than ever. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would protect voters in any state or locality that pursues certain anti-voter restrictions, not just in places that are covered by geographic preclearance. These protective measures will apply to all 50 states and build on the VRA’s successful record of stopping voter suppression in its tracks and will help deter and mitigate future anti-voter attacks.
Fair Fight Action Founder and Chair Stacey Abrams issued the following statement:
“The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is landmark legislation, befitting its name and the legacy of Congressman John Lewis, that would implement historic and urgently needed protections of the freedom to vote. Fair Fight Action is grateful to Speaker Pelosi, Representatives Sewell and Butterfield, and the House Judiciary Committee for working tirelessly to pass voting rights legislation that Americans across party lines are demanding. We applaud these leaders for recognizing the urgency of this moment and making voting rights a top priority.
Our democracy is in crisis. As we face redistricting, it is essential that both the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act become law before state legislatures and commissions formally approve new maps. Together, these two bills are key tools in protecting the freedom to vote across the country—and particularly for protecting people of color from voter suppression.”
The introduction of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act follows Monday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. The testimony offered at the hearing demonstrated that HR4 is essential to upholding our democracy and protecting Americans against the onslaught of attacks on our freedom to vote.
Monday’s hearing featured testimony from Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke and civil rights leaders representing the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Brennan Center for Justice, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Testimony during the hearing made it abundantly clear that, since Shelby County, states have enacted voting laws, policies, and procedures with discriminatory intent and/or that disproportionately burden communities of color.
Between 1996 and 2013, the Department of Justice made at least 12 objections to voting changes in Georgia, with several violations committed by the State of Georgia itself. As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights demonstrated, Georgia—along with other states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas—have been determined to have recently discriminated against voters of color in such serious ways as to demand Congress’s immediate action to restore and strengthen the preclearance formula eviscerated by Shelby County. Fair Fight Action’s report on Georgia’s enduring racial discrimination in voting and the urgent need to modernize the Voting Rights Act was submitted as part of the Congressional record.