Rep. Johnson Votes to Protect the Right to Vote for All Americans, Honor the Legacy of John Lewis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) voted to protect the sacred right to vote with H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. As the United States faces the worst voter suppression campaign since Jim Crow, this landmark legislation will fight back against the partisan, anti-democratic barriers keeping voters — especially voters of color — from the ballot box by restoring the critical protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Across the nation, partisan forces are waging the most brazen and cynical assault on the ballot box in a generation,” said Rep. Johnson. “Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and doubled down on this assault again this year, state and local lawmakers – including in Georgia – have used this moment to pass a surge of voter suppression laws that are silencing the voices of voters of color and other communities who have long been disenfranchised.
Today, we proudly passed H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to fight back against this anti-democratic tide and protect access to the ballot box. This historic bill honors the legacy of its namesake, the late Congressman John Lewis, who devoted his life to securing the sacred right to vote for every American – and all those who sacrificed for this noble cause.”
For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) empowered the federal government to block certain states and localities with dark histories of discriminatory barriers to voting from enacting restrictions on the right to vote. However, in its disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the U.S. Department of Justice’s “preclearance” power under the VRA. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC, which made it more difficult for the federal government to challenge discriminatory voting laws.
As a result of the Shelby decision, states began passing voter suppression laws, because there was no preclearance requirement hindering them. The restrictive laws – including voter roll purges, restrictions to mail-in voting, elimination of polling places and more – have disproportionately reduced turnout among communities of color, voters with disabilities, young adults and older voters. This has been meticulously documented by the Democratic House over two Congresses.
This year, Republican-controlled state legislatures across the nation, including Rep. Johnson’s home state of Georgia, have accelerated their voter suppression campaign, fed by former President Trump’s Big Lie about the results of the 2020 election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 18 states have already enacted 30 laws that restrict the right to vote, and more than 400 voter suppression bills are still actively being considered across the country.
Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Robert Lewis, H.R. 4 restores the preclearance requirement, allowing the federal government to once again reject many restrictions to voting, and creates a new practice-based preclearance requirement. The bill also eliminates the heightened standard for challenging voter suppression laws, which was created by the Brnovich decision.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will also:
• Allow federal courts to immediately halt measures that put voting rights at stake until a final ruling is made.
• Empower the Attorney General to request that federal election observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
• Require reasonable public notice for proposed voting changes to increase transparency.
• Allow the federal government to review already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures.
• Help plaintiffs seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations ahead of an election.
• Establish a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s requirement to provide public notice for proposed voting laws.
After passing today in the House, H.R. 4 will now go to the Senate for consideration.