President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman John Lewis in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House Feb. 15, 2011. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) are part of a group of 49 Senate Democrats that introduced 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 for 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 body blow to the Voting Rights Act, by making it significantly harder for plaintiffs to win lawsuits under the landmark law against discriminatory voting laws or procedures.
“Although Republicans blocked the Senate from taking up the comprehensive reforms in the For The People Act earlier this year, I won’t give up on passing voting legislation in this Congress. When I think about why this is so important, I remember my former colleague, whose office was right across the hall from me when I served in the House of Representatives, Congressman John Lewis. More than 50 years ago, John Lewis and so many others marched in Selma and put their lives on the line in Freedom Rises to call for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Heinrich said. “We urgently need to restore the full protections of the original Voting Rights Act and stand up to the voter suppression laws that states like Georgia and Texas are taking straight out of the playbook from the Jim Crow South.”
Luján said, “The sacred right to vote is what makes our country what it is. But our democracy will continue to be weakened by the many voter suppression bills that have been passed by state legislatures across the country. This Republican-led effort exacerbates voter access issues that already exist in so many communities, especially for Hispanic, Native Americans and Tribal Nations. That’s why I’m honored to join 48 of my colleagues to introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the protections that my friend and former colleague, the late John Lewis, fought for his entire life. I’m also proud that this legislation will include my Native American Voting Rights Act that would reduce barriers to the ballot box for voters living on Tribal lands and empower more voters to participate in the electoral process.”
In addition to Senators Heinrich and Luján, the legislation led by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is endorsed by a number of civil rights organizations, including 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.
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.