WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday afternoon, Senate Democrats introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, Senate Bill 4, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). “The most fitting way to honor the legacy of John Lewis is to take action ourselves,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on the Senate floor as he introduced the bill. S. 4 establishes a new formula to determine which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the VRA, a provision that ensures federal oversight of states or counties with histories of discriminatory voting laws. The old formula to determine which jurisdictions require pre-approval was struck down in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill also strengthens Section 2 of the VRA in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brnovich v. DNC earlier this summer.
The bill introduced on Tuesday contains noticeable changes from the one passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 4, in August. The Senate’s preclearance formula and requirements are slightly different to those in H.R. 4. Additionally, S.4 now includes the Native American Voting Rights Act, introduced in August by Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) who spoke yesterday of the “geographic, linguistic and legal barriers” Native American voters face. S.4 also includes the Election Worker and Polling Place Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), which strengthens legal protections for poll workers and their families against harassment.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated his plan for the Senate to hold a vote on S. 4 “in the coming weeks,” calling S.4 a complement to the Freedom to Vote Act, S.2747, which also awaits a vote in the Senate.