Senate Democrats Reintroduce Bill To Revitalize the Voting Rights Act

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senate Democrats have reintroduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a landmark bill that would restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to protect voters and democracy.

The reintroduction was announced earlier today in a press conference with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). The senators were also flanked by a group of civil rights leaders.

The bill most notably would breathe new life into the VRA by introducing a new formula for determining which states are subject to preclearance. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the previous formula in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, effectively nullifying Section 5, which required states with histories of discriminatory voting practices to receive federal approval before passing new voting laws and enacting new maps.

The legislation would additionally revitalize Section 2 of the VRA, which has also been weakened by conservatives on the Supreme Court. Section 2 prohibits “the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” But in 2021, the Court added five additional qualifiers for lawsuits to be brought, including how much of a burden a law may have on voters. The bill reintroduced today would get rid of those extra obstacles. 

In remarks at the press conference, Durbin said the bill “honors the legacy of John Lewis and those who fought and marched and died to protect the right to vote in America.” Schumer added that they were reintroducing the bill “because we know how crucial, how critical it is, for us to do our part to expand access to the ballot box and end voter discrimination.”

Last September, Rep. Terri Sewell reintroduced the legislation in the House, which passed the bill in 2021 when Democrats controlled the chamber. Republicans in the Senate, however, ultimately stalled the legislation. 

Read the bill here.

Learn more about the bill here.

View the press conference here.