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Press Release

Brennan Center’s Michael Waldman on House Passage of John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

The legislation would restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act; Senate must now act

August 24, 2021
Contact: Julian Brookes, Media Contact, brookesj@brennan.law.nyu.edu, 646-292-8376

For Imme­di­ate Release
August 24, 2021

The U.S. House of Repres­ent­at­ives today passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act (H.R. 4). The legis­la­tion would address racial discrim­in­a­tion in voting by restor­ing and strength­en­ing the protec­tions of the Voting Rights Act — provi­sions gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 and further weakened in Brnovich v. DNC earlier this year.

Michael Wald­man, pres­id­ent of the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law, had the follow­ing reac­tion:

“Today the House passed a much-needed voting rights bill. It’s crit­ical to the health of our nation’s demo­cracy and its commit­ment to equal­ity and racial justice. Now it’s up to the Senate to act, without delay and without excuse.  

“The Voting Rights Act was long recog­nized as perhaps the most effect­ive civil rights law. But in recent years, the Supreme Court has sent the coun­try back­wards on voting rights. The 2013 Shelby County decision and this year’s Brnovich ruling gravely weakened the law. Amer­ic­ans can’t count on the highest court to fend off racial discrim­in­a­tion in voting. It’s up to Congress. 

“The facts show that racial discrim­in­a­tion in voting has followed us into the 21st century. Recently it is getting worse, not better. The gap between white voters’ turnout rates and nonwhite voters’ rates has been widen­ing nation­wide, espe­cially in states once covered by a strong Voting Rights Act. Mean­while, discrim­in­at­ory voting restric­tions are being proposed and frequently enacted in the states at a rate not seen since the Jim Crow era.  

“This coun­try’s citizens need the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act. They needed it when Repres­ent­at­ive Lewis cham­pioned this legis­la­tion in 2015, and they need it now. Senat­ors face a choice: they can act to protect voting rights, or refuse to do so. Senate rules cannot be used as an excuse to evade that funda­mental choice. As redis­trict­ing begins, voting laws move forward in legis­latures, and partis­ans prepare new restrict­ive steps, this bill is abso­lutely urgent."

Related Bren­nan Center resources: