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In response to growing evidence that voters face widespread disenfranchisement, the House passed a voting rights bill named after John Lewis this week. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would impose new requirements to ensure fair elections, including requiring states to allow more types of ID, instituting automatic and same-day registration, and outlawing unnecessary voter roll purges and partisan gerrymandering.
Strengthens The Voting Rights Act
The proposed legislation, named after civil rights icon John Lewis, seeks to enhance the Voting Rights Act and provide better safeguards against discriminatory practices. Its goal is to restore the authority of the Justice Department to authorize voting changes made by state and local governments in regions with a history of racial discrimination, also known as “preclearance.” This is in response to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, invalidating the previous preclearance standards set by the law.
The law also would require states with histories of discrimination to submit their redistricting and voting laws for federal approval. It would allow the Justice Department to consider factors like racial demographics, current discrimination, and past successes in combatting voting rights violations when determining whether to preclear a state’s laws.
Moreover, the bill would prohibit courts from using “whataboutism” in Section 2 claims. This practice allows judges to dismiss cases that don’t include the right-wing argument that racial discrimination is no longer a problem. The bill also includes a provision that would force any entity that spends more than $10,000 on elections to disclose its major donors.
Passing the bill is an important move in reinstating the safeguards that were dismantled by the Supreme Court in the Shelby County v. Holder case. It made it more difficult to challenge its 2021 decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. This legislation is essential to ensuring that Americans have the freedom to vote without fear of being denied due process, intimidation, or harassment.
Prevents Voter Suppression
The Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 freezes changes to voting practices and procedures in covered jurisdictions until they have been determined nondiscriminatory by either an administrative review by the Attorney General or a court case brought by civil rights groups. This has proven to be a crucial tool in combatting voter suppression tactics, which often target voters of color and are designed to keep them from exercising their right to vote.
After the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted Section 5, the Justice Department played a leading role in identifying and fighting these tactics. But now, with the end of preclearance, it’s up to civic organizations like the League of Women Voters and NAACP, nonprofit groups like the ACLU and Brennan Center for Justice, and individuals to push back against these blatantly discriminatory measures.
Restoring and strengthening the protections of the Voting Rights Act can be made possible by implementing the John Lewis Act. The bill would restore the formula used to determine which states and localities require preclearance based on the history of discrimination and current patterns of voter disenfranchisement. It would also instruct courts to consider additional discriminatory factors when hearing cases, including the impact of racism on impacted communities and the effect of these practices on the entire democracy. The bill would not allow the recent wave of state laws restricting voting to continue, and it could help reverse decades of erosion in voter turnout for people of color.
Strengthens The Voter Registration Process
As a whole, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is an impressive package of reforms. It would prohibit states and political subdivisions with a history of voting discrimination from adopting new laws without federal preclearance, thus directly addressing the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
Specifically, it would require the Justice Department to review changes in electoral rules, including voter ID requirements and redistricting procedures, to determine whether they have “a significant impact on minority voters”. It would make clear that the Justice Department could take action to enforce the law where necessary. States and political subdivisions covered by the bill must submit information about their voting practices, which includes a detailed history of discrimination and the extent to which it continues today.
The bill also makes it harder for jurisdictions to purge voters from the rolls, bans partisan gerrymandering, and requires more transparency for so-called dark money in elections. It also protects people with disabilities, overseas and military voters, and those convicted of felonies.
Unfortunately, the bill faces near-universal opposition from Republicans, who’ve endorsed racial targeting in their campaign rhetoric and dismissed claims of nationwide voter suppression as bogus. The John Lewis, Voting Rights Act, will face a tough fight in the Senate, where a filibuster will likely block it. But even if the bill fails to pass, it has helped to set stronger precedents for future Democratic-led legislation to prevent racial discrimination in voting.
Prevents Foreign Interference
The John Lewis, Voting Rights Act, would restore and strengthen parts of the 1965 law, whose protections against racial discrimination in voting were stripped away by the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision. It creates a new formula for federal preclearance, mandating states with histories of discrimination to get permission from the federal government before adopting laws or drawing districts that could affect their ability to vote.
The bill also requires that campaigns report instances of foreign interference and strengthens enforcement of illegal coordination between single-candidate PACs and campaigns. These measures, coupled with the other provisions in the bill, will help to ensure our elections are secure and fair.
As a civil rights leader and tireless advocate, Congressman John Lewis understood the need for vigilant vigilance against external threats to democracy and internal attacks on our fundamental democratic values. Throughout his career, he never wavered from this principle and fought tirelessly to defend our democracy and the rights of every American.