Aug 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats introduce voting rights bill named for John Lewis

Former Rep. John Lewis

Former Rep. John Lewis in 2013. Photo: Riccardo S. Savi via Getty Images for U.S. Postal Service

House Democrats introduced a voting rights bill that was named in honor of the late Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: The bill would restore elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and allow the federal government to block certain state changes to election laws it finds to be discriminatory.

  • "Today, old battles have become new again as we face the most coordinated effort to restrict the right to vote in generations & a Supreme Court keen on destroying our nation's most consequential civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act," Sewell said.

Why it matters: Democrats are trying to counter a wave of new voting restrictions in Republican states. Any bill faces an uphill battle in the tied Senate where it would need 60 votes to pass.

Background: In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a provision of the Voting Rights Act that allowed for the regulation of new election laws. The provision primarily affected Southern states that had a history of discrimination.

  • In July, the Supreme Court upheld a set of voting restrictions in Arizona, making it much more difficult for the Justice Department to challenge new voting laws.

Flashback: Lewis died in July 2020, and Democratic lawmakers and other civil rights leaders renewed calls for voting rights protections.

The big picture: The House is poised to vote on the measure next week. They passed the For the People Act, an expansive election and anti-corruption bill, in March, which was ultimately blocked by Republican senators.

  • "Across the country, we continue to bear witness to GOP attacks on voting rights with restrictive laws and voter-ID rules to prevent people of color, students, and others from having their voices heard at the ballot box," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday.
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