Aug 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House lawmakers pass John Lewis voting rights bill

Shenita Binns of Atlanta, Georgia, holds up a sign that reads "We Must Protect Our Vote!" as she and other voting rights activists participate in a “Freedom Friday March” protest.
Shenita Binns (center) of Atlanta, holds up a voting rights sign as she and other activists participate in a “Freedom Friday March” protest. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House lawmakers on Tuesday narrowly passed a voting rights bill named in honor of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), an effort to combat a wave of new voting restrictions in Republican states.

Why it matters: H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, passed by a party-line vote of 219 to 212, with no Republican support. If passed in the Senate, it will restore portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, giving the federal government the ability to block changes to state election laws found to be discriminatory.

  • The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans have blocked previous House-passed voting measures.
  • The vote would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

Of note: "That bottleneck puts Democrats right back where they started with a slim chance of enacting any voting legislation before the 2022 midterm elections, when some in the party fear new GOP laws will make it harder for many Americans to vote," Associated Press reports.

Background: The Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated the "preclearance" provision of the Voting Rights Act that allowed for the regulation of new election laws.

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