Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to stop race discrimination in voting, which has a long and shameful history in the United States. The law was later amended to cover discrimination against language minorities as well. But the right to vote is still under threat, particularly because of relatively recent Supreme Court decisions.
These damaging rulings, the growing racial turnout gap, and a wave of restrictive state voting laws underscore the urgent need for Congress to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This essential bill would restore the Voting Rights Act to its original strength and add additional protections that are needed today.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruling Shelby County v. Holder gutted the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that states and localities with a history of discrimination first obtain federal approval before changing voting rules — a process called “preclearance.” In the 2021 case Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court made it more difficult to use Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to win lawsuits challenging discriminatory laws that restrict voting rights.
The John Lewis Act, named for the late civil rights champion and congressman, would modernize and revitalize the Voting Rights Act by strengthening legal protections against discriminatory voting policies. First, the bill would restore what the Supreme Court struck down in Shelby County by creating a new framework to determine which jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination are subject to preclearance. It would also add a preclearance requirement for certain practices that are frequently discriminatory, such as voter ID. Further, in response to the Brnovich decision, the bill would restore Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to ensure that voters have the full ability to challenge voting discrimination in court.
The House passed the John Lewis Act in 2021 and 2022 but it was filibustered in the Senate. It has now been reintroduced in the House as H.R. 14.
- Voting Rights Act Analyses, Reports, and Explainers
Analyses, reports, and explainers from the Brennan Center outlining the need to restore the Voting Rights Act
- John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Testimony
Congressional hearings and testimony in support of the Voting Rights Advancement Act