STATEMENT: CAP’s Danielle Root Praises House Passage of John Lewis Voting Rights Act
Washington, D.C. — Today, the House passed H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (VRAA), which restores the monumental Voting Rights Act (VRA) to its full strength and protects voters against vicious and discriminatory anti-voting rules. In particular, the VRAA rectifies the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted key VRA provisions that required jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination to obtain federal approval for voting-related changes. By eliminating federal oversight of discriminatory voting policies, Shelby County ushered in an era of egregious voter suppression targeting Black and Indigenous people as well as other people of color. The VRAA further remedies Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, in which the Supreme Court severely curtailed voters’ ability to successfully challenge discriminatory voting laws.
The VRAA is essential legislation that comes at a critical time: Across the country, voters are under attack by politicians intent on jettisoning free and fair elections. Hundreds of anti-voting bills are being considered by state legislatures in nearly every state, some of which already have been adopted into law. Many of these anti-voting bills are designed to block Black and brown communities from participating in elections; they also disproportionately harm disabled voters. By restoring and strengthening the VRA, H.R. 4 would help prevent oppressive voting measures from going into effect, restore voters’ ability to challenge bad laws, and protect the fundamental right to vote for generations.
Danielle Root, director of voting rights and access to justice at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Since Shelby County was decided nearly a decade ago, the American people have been bombarded with voter suppression measures that shock the conscience and raise serious questions about whether the fundamental right to vote will be fully realized in the United States, particularly for people of color and disabled voters. This year, attacks on voting rights and U.S. elections are at a record high.
This legislation offers a beacon of hope against this grim backdrop. The bill is aptly named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights hero who was an inspiration in this country’s long fight for voting rights. Rep. Lewis was a fierce champion for voters and spoke truth to power in steadfastly opposing discriminatory voting measures. He risked life and limb to guarantee full and equal access to the ballot box.
If adopted into law, this measure would create a vital backstop against the worst anti-voting efforts and help ensure that every American can cast a vote and make their voices heard. Through this measure, Rep. Lewis’ legacy lives on. The House has done its part; it is now up to the Senate to pass this legislation with all urgency.
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