Newswire: Rep. Sewell Calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up and pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020

Headshot of Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent House Concurrent Resolution 107 to rename H.R. 4 the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), who introduced and shepherded H.R. 4 through the House of Representatives last year, praised the decision to rename the legislation for her late colleague, mentor and friend.
“There is no better way to honor Congressman Lewis’ legacy than to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that every American – regardless of color – is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. It is fitting that the House moved today to rename H.R. 4 in John’s name,” Sewell said. “The bill has been languishing in Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard for 234 days. McConnell has taken to the floor to honor John, but the most significant thing he can do is to bring up the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 for a vote. Now is the time for action to honor John’s legacy!”
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 John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 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 the legislation, 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 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.

Newswire: Rep. Terri Sewell: John Lewis left the fight to protect voting rights for us to finish

John Lewis’ steady and persistent voice reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. We must protect it.


By: Terri A. Sewell, Op-Ed in USA Today

Terri A. Sewell


Congressman John Lewis was a beacon of light, hope and inspiration throughout his life. To be in his presence was to experience love, whole-hearted and without exception. He remained until his passing a faithful servant-leader, whose righteousness, kindness and vision for a more equitable future inspired all who were blessed to know him. Though he was so often met with hatred, violence and racial terrorism, it never permeated his being. While Congressman Lewis has left this earth, his legacy fighting for equality and justice lives on.
Now, to honor John, our nation and our leaders must unite behind the cause most dear to him: voting rights. We must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength so that every American, regardless of color, is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box.
Lewis’ voice has been consistent over the years. He reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. He dedicated his life to ensuring that all Americans were able to access that most fundamental right, and we owe it to him to ensure that his life’s work was not in vain.
We have seen increased efforts across the nation to make it more difficult to vote. Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, legislatures across the country have implemented proven discriminatory practices like strict voter ID laws, closures of polling places, gerrymandered districts and voter roll purges, disproportionately impacting Black Americans. While Republican lawmakers have defended the laws as necessary to protect against voter fraud, their cries — and fear mongering — is based on myth. Widespread voter fraud is not a legitimate threat to our democracy, but voter suppression is.
H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, would serve as an antidote to the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling, putting the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Lewis and so many other “foot soldiers” marched, bled and gave their lives for. It is languishing now in the Senate in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.
Reflecting on Bloody Sunday during his last speech on the Selma bridge in March, Lewis said, “Our country is a better country. … But we have still a distance to travel to go before we get there.”
In memory:Honor John Lewis with a Senate vote on the voting rights he fought for his whole life.
Lewis knew that progress was elusive, that it had to be won and fought for every generation. He also firmly believed that the best days of our nation lie ahead of us. We must continue to call upon his unwavering optimism. As he would say: Never give up. Never give in. Never give out. Keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. And vote.
Restore the Voting Rights Act — for John Lewis, and the country he loved so deeply.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. Follow her on Twitter: @RepTerriSewell

‘Ride to Restore Section 5’ grassroots lobbyists push Voting Rights Advancement Act in Washington, D. C.

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

Hodge.jpgwash group.jpgCongresswoman Terri Sewell address youth as part of the training to support ride to revive Section 5.

A group of sixty community activists from Alabama went to Washington, D. C. in six vans from Sunday to Tuesday (June 24-27, 2017) to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), HR 2948, introduced last week by our Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.
The bill was introduced on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Shelby vs, Holder decision, which gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and advance Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to include 14 states and other political subdivisions. These areas would again be placed under the protection of Section 5 and be required to have any election changes pre-cleared by the Department of Justice before they could be implanted.
The VRAA updates the criteria and establishes a nationwide coverage formula for states and political subdivisions that would be subject again to the pre-clearance provisions of Section 5. Any state that has had 15 or more voting violations in the last 25-year period; or 10 or more voting violations, at least one of the violations committed by the state itself, would be covered. A political subdivision within a state can be covered if it commits 3 or more voting violations.
The bill also carefully defines what constitutes a voting rights violation and which election changes must be submitted for pre-clearance.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said, “The VRAA is an advancement bill, it advances voting rights throughout the country. Under this bill, all eleven states that were part of the Confederacy, including Alabama, as well as other political subdivisions around the nation and on tribal lands would be covered and subject to the pre-clearance provisions.”
The VRAA would classify voting changes such as strict voter photo identification requirements, and voter registration requirements to be reviewed and possibly overturned if they were deemed to be more stringent than the requirements in Section 303b of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.The VRAA, HR 2948, has 182 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. They are all Democrats. And the companion legislation S.1490 in the Senate has 46 co-sponsors, also all Democrats, so far.
The grassroots voting activists visited more than 75 Congressional offices, including the membership of the House Judiciary Committee, Alabama’s delegation of six Republican members besides Sewell and our two Senators – Richard Shelby and Luther Strange. The grassroots activists left a package of information including factsheets on the legislation, a Senate Sketches by State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, which deals with the “power of one vote”, and materials about the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, the first weekend in March each year.
On Tuesday morning, the Alabama group joined by other activists in Washington from the Rural Coalition, Food and Water Watch, National Family Farm Coalition and other groups had a rally and press conference on the Capitol grounds facing the Cannon House Office Building on Independence Avenue and First Street NE.
The rally had many chants supporting the revival of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act along with civil rights freedom songs. Several Congresspersons, including Terri Sewell, G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Marc Veasey of Dallas, Texas and Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts addressed the rally. Congressman John Lewis drove by the rally on Independence Avenue and saluted the crowd.
On Monday night, the group had a meeting at Howard University Law School, which was addressed by several civil rights veterans, including former D. C. Congressman Walter E.
Fauntroy, Viola Bradford, who wrote for the Southern Courier newspaper in Montgomery, Antonio Harrison, a former Alabama State Senator, who lives and works in D. C. Professor Ardua of the Law School spoke on the need for reparations to address the continuing impact of slavery on Black people.
The Ride to Revive Section 5 was sponsored by the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Alabama New South Coalition and other local groups in Alabama. For more information or to make donations to help the cause – contact Shelley Fearson at 334-262-0932 or email: Alabamanewsouth Coordinator@ aol.com

Democrats end House sit-in protest over gun control

 

By Deirdre WalshManu RajuEric Bradner and Steven Sloan, CNN

John Lewis with Terri Sewell

Congressman John Lewis and colleagues including Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) as part of sit-in on House floor;

 John Lewis crossing bridge 1965

 John Lewis crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma 1965   Washington (CNN)

Democrats decided to end their day-long sit-in protest on the House floor over gun control Thursday, June 23, 2016.

Rep. John Lewis, who launched the sit-in Wednesday morning that eventually drew 170 lawmakers, lit up social media, and infuriated House Republicans — but spurred no legislative action — said the fight was not over.

“We must come back here on July 5th [when Congress returns to session] more determined than ever before,” Lewis said.

“We are going to win,” he told supporters on the Capitol steps after the sit-in was halted. “The fight is not over. This is just one step of when we come back here on July the 5th we’re going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and if necessary, to sit down. So don’t give up, don’t give in. Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize.”  He also tweeted, “We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”

Lawmakers said that during the July 4th break, they would take the issue to their districts.”We are going back to our congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body feel as comfortable as in the past,” Rep. Jim Clyburn said. “On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of a purpose.”

Republicans had earlier tried to shut down the sit-in, but the Democrats’ protest over the lack of action on gun control lasted for more than 24 hours. House Democrats were looking for votes to expand background checks and ban gun sales to those on the no-fly watch list.

In the middle of the night, the House GOP had sought to end the extraordinary day of drama by swiftly adjourning for a recess that will last through July 5.

The Republican move was an effort to terminate a protest that began Wednesday morning in reaction to the massacre in Orlando when Democrats took over the House floor and tried to force votes on gun control. But throughout the morning Thursday, 10-20 Democrats, including House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi for much of the time, remained on the floor.

At one point, a police officer told the Democrats that they would be conducting a daily security sweep. “I’d ask that you clear the floor while that happens,” the officer said.

Pelosi responded: “That’s not going to happen” and the security check then took place involving five agents and a dog as the House Democratic leader continued speaking, undeterred. Pelosi said the sit-in would continue “until hell freezes over.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday accused the Democrats of throwing the House into “chaos” and threatening democracy. He said Republicans were looking at all options to stop the sit-in, if the Democrats continued it.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, also criticized the protest and said it was a setback to her efforts to build bipartisan support for her legislation that would ban gun sales to people on a list of possible terrorists.

“It is not helpful to have had the sit-in on the House side because that made it partisan, and I’ve worked very hard to keep this bipartisan, so that setback our efforts somewhat,” she said of her bill, which won support from a majority of senators Thursday but fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

Although Republicans leaders had shut off House cameras, Democrats continued Thursday morning to livestream their activities on the floor. Rep. Mark Takano plugged his phone into an external power source, set it on top of a chair facing the podium, and was streaming on his Facebook page even though he’d left the chamber to appear on CNN’s “New Day.”

The sit-in became a social media happening. Tweets sent by Reps. Scott Peters and Eric Swalwell with Periscopes were viewed over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m. Florida Rep. Ted Deutch gave an impassioned speech on the floor.”I am tired, I am cold, and I am hungry. Let me remind everyone watching how privileged I am to be tired, cold, and hungry,” he said. “These are feelings that I am privileged to have because so many will never feel that again,” referring to victims of gun violence.

Overall, more than 170 Democrats took part in the sit in over the 24 hours, lawmakers said.