Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined the introduction of legislation to restore the landmark Voting Rights Act (VRA) and stop the spreading scourge of voter suppression. The legislation – the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – is named after an icon of the Civil Rights movement, the late Congressman John Lewis, and reflects an update to legislation introduced in the last Congress.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s damaging Shelby County decision in 2013 – which crippled the federal government’s ability under the 1965 Voting Rights Act to prevent discriminatory changes to voting laws and procedures – states across the country have unleashed a torrent of voter suppression schemes that have systematically disenfranchised tens of thousands of American voters. The Supreme Court’s more recent Brnovich decision earlier this year delivered yet another blow to the VRA, by making it significantly harder for plaintiffs to win lawsuits under the landmark law against discriminatory voting laws or procedures.
“John Lewis showed us the best of the human spirit, as he worked with hope in his heart to change America and bring liberty and justice for all. It’s now up to all of us to carry on John's spirit and continue his important work, including protecting the right to vote,” said Senator Baldwin. “This summer we celebrated the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That historic step forward for our country is reminder that Congress does indeed have a role and responsibility at the federal level to stop voter suppression efforts and remove barriers to the constitutionally protected right to vote. Voting rights are the foundation of our democracy and our democracy works best when all our voices can be heard. That is why I will keep working to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act so that we strengthen our democracy and put power in the hands of the people.”
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is endorsed by the following leading civil rights organizations: Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
U.S Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) lead 48 Senate cosponsors on this legislation including Senator Baldwin, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Congressman Lewis would want us to come together and find a path forward to addressing the many threats facing Americans’ foundational right to vote. But what he would not accept is inaction. Now is the time to restore the Voting Rights Act – a bedrock voting rights law – and ensure that every citizen is guaranteed their constitutionally protected right to vote. Protecting the right to vote has never been a partisan issue. Reauthorizing and improving the Voting Rights Act has always been a bipartisan effort. There is simply no reason for that to change now. This is straightforward, commonsense legislation to address the Supreme Court’s decisions and to ensure that the Voting Rights Act continues to have the effect long intended: to protect the right to vote,” said Senator Leahy.
“Racial barriers to the ballot are regrettably part of our nation’s past, present and future, and the Senate must act to right this wrong by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. We must restore the Voting Rights Act and retailor it to address the wave of new voter suppression laws unleashed by the conservative Supreme Court’s wrongheaded 2013 Shelby V. Holder decision. It is vital that the Congress pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a critical complement to the Freedom to Vote Act, and I continue to fight to get both to the president’s desk,” said Majority Leader Schumer.
“In our nation, there is no freedom more fundamental than the right to vote. And right now, it is under attack. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will help ensure that every American can exercise what our friend John famously called this ‘precious, almost sacred’ right. John was one of the strongest champions of democracy in American history—and now it’s our turn to act. Nothing less than the survival of our democracy is at stake,” said Senator Durbin.
“Nothing is more fundamental and urgent than this legislation to protect voting rights, which are under unprecedented assault in states around the country. John Lewis was a civil rights hero, an icon, a trailblazer, a model, and a mentor to so many of us. In honor of his memory and in tribute to the ideals of democracy that he championed, we should stand up to this assault on our democracy and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There is no time to waste,” said Senator Blumenthal.
The full text of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can be found here.
A section-by-section analysis of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can be found here.