WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) formally introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4). From a press conference in Selma, standing in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Sewell introduced the bill named after the civil rights giant, which would restore vital provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and has 190 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. “By preventing states with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote, this bill restores the full promise of our democracy and advances the legacy of those brave Foot Soldiers like John Lewis who dedicated their lives for the sacred right to vote,” Sewell said in a statement.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder, ruling that the formula used to determine which states were subject to federal “preclearance” requirements when passing new election laws was unconstitutional. Striking down Section 4 in turn gutted Section 5, which was the enforcement mechanism behind preclearance. A new formula has not been passed yet, leaving the federal government without any pathway to vet discriminatory voting laws before they are enacted. H.R. 4 establishes a new formula and restores many of the provisions of the VRA that have since been hollowed out. The newest version of the legislation also includes the provisions of a bill previously introduced by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) that would restore Section 2, which was recently weakened by the Court’s ruling in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that the House will vote on the bill next week. Versions of the bill have passed the House twice in previous sessions of Congress already with negligible Republican support, but have so far failed in the Senate. “Congress has not only an ironclad Constitutional mandate, but a moral responsibility to enact H.R. 4 to combat destructive and discriminatory voter suppression,” Pelosi said in a statement.