Newswire: Rep. Sewell praises House passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act

Washington, D.C. – On Friday, December 6, 2019 , U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) praised the House passage of H.R. 4, her Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill will restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by outlining a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice.
“Voting is personal to me, not only because I represent America’s Civil Rights District—but because it was on the streets of my hometown, Selma, Alabama, that foot soldiers shed their blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so that all Americans—regardless of race—could vote!” Sewell said. “I am so proud that, today, the House took critical steps in addressing the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision and passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength.”
The Supreme Courts’ 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlined the qualifications needed to determine which states are required by the Justice Department to pre-clear elections changes in states with a history of voter discrimination.
Since the Shelby decision, nearly two-dozen states have implemented restrictive voter ID laws and previously-covered states have closed or consolidated polling places, shortened early voting and imposed other measures that restrict voting.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) seeks to restore the VRA by developing a process to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice. It will also require a nationwide, practice-based pre-clearance of known discriminatory practices, including the creation of at-large districts, inadequate multilingual voting materials, cuts to polling places, changes that reduce the days or hours of in person voting on Sundays during the early voting period and changes to the maintenance of voter registration lists that adds a basis or institutes a new process for removal from the lists, where the jurisdiction includes racial or language minority populations above a certain percent threshold.
Under H.R. 4, there are three ways to become a covered jurisdiction that is required to pre-clear election changes:
States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years; or
States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years; or
Political subdivisions or localities with 3 or more violations in that subdivision in the previous 25 years.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act now heads to the Senate for consideration, where it was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Many are now calling on the Senate to take up the measure. Rev. Dr. William Barber, the president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach and the architect of the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina, counts among those calling out Senate leaders.
“The U.S. House passed legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act,” Barber stated. “If [GOP Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell refuses to take it up in the Senate, he’s confessing that he believes the GOP can’t win without voter suppression.”
Gerrymandering, unfair voter I.D. laws, and intimidation at the polls are among the tactics being used to prevent voters of color from casting votes, stated Marcela Howell, the founder, and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.
“Passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act by the House is a first step toward restoring our democracy. We applaud the House of Representatives for passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019,” Howell stated.
“The wholesale disenfranchisement of voters threatens our democracy. Conservative lawmakers across the country are pulling out all the stops to prevent people of color – especially Black people – from exercising our right to vote,” she stated.
Howell continued: “We didn’t march and die fighting for our right to vote only to have that right denied us in this new Jim Crow era –fueled by the racist policies of conservative state legislators and the terrible decision in Shelby v. Holder by the Supreme Court that reinforced these oppressive laws.
“We call on Sen. Mitch McConnell to follow the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop the assault on voting rights by scheduling a Senate vote on the Voting Rights Advancement Act as soon as possible.
“We encourage voters across the country to unite in resistance by holding their elected representatives accountable and, most of all, by exercising their right to vote in local, state, and federal elections.”
The bill is supported by more than 60 national organizations, including the NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Native American Rights Fund, League of Women Voters of the United States, AAUW, ACLU, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Communications Workers of America, SEIU, UAW, Democracy 21, Democracy Initiative, End Citizens United Action Fund, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

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