House Democrats Introduce Bill Enshrining the Right to Vote on Anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder Decision

U.S. House Democrats, led by Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), are pushing a bill to guarantee the right to vote in federal elections. It was introduced on June 25, the 11th anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, which weakened the Voting Rights Act.

“Ever since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we’ve seen states across the country pass racist voting laws in order to carve us out of our collective democracy,” Lee said in a statement. “Any attempt to keep us from participating in our right to vote in federal elections must be challenged in court and brought to an end in order to preserve the fundamental values our country was founded upon.”

U.S. Capitol building. (Adobe Stock)

This bill, called the Right to Vote Act, is the House version of a Senate bill that Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) introduced in March.

The Right to Vote Act would establish a federal voting rights guarantee, prohibit state and local governments from enacting laws that restrict someone’s ability to vote in federal elections and authorize a civil right of action to allow Americans to challenge any policy in court that limits their access to the ballot.

In her statement, Lee said this legislation is necessary because Republican-led states have enacted numerous voter suppression laws in recent years, disproportionately impacting people of color, young voters, people with disabilities and those with low incomes.  

“With nearly two-thirds of all U.S. states having passed some type of voting restriction in recent years, it is clear Congress must ask swiftly to safeguard every citizen’s ability to participate in our democracy,” Lee said.

In the last couple of months, Louisiana and Georgia have each passed multiple voter suppression laws.

Lee said in her statement that she chose to introduce this bill on the anniversary of a historic case because that ruling “opened the door for states and other jurisdictions to pass onerous voting restrictions that disproportionately harm voters of color.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which included a provision referred to as preclearance in which certain states, counties and cities — with histories of discriminatory voting practices — had to receive preapproval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal district court before changing voting laws.

The Right to Vote Act is endorsed by numerous House Democrats, including Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), along with multiple pro-voting organizations like Protect Democracy, Fair Fight Action, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the Campaign Legal Center.

Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, urged lawmakers to come together and pass this bill.

“Americans of all political parties agree that our government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. We cannot achieve that ideal until every citizen has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” Potter said in a statement.

Read the bill here.