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: Will Reparations become Democrats’ campaign theme?

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Statue of Slavery

A new refrain could be taking center stage during the 2020 Presidential Campaign. Senators Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both 2020 presidential candidates, said they support reparations for African Americans to redress the legacy of the slavery.
The senators’ statements came as many are observing the 500thanniversary of the transatlantic slave trade and the 400th year since the first African was brought to Virginia.“ I think that we have got to address that again. It’s back to the inequities,” Harris said during in an interview with The Breakfast Club radio show. “America has a history of slavery. We had Jim Crow. We had legal segregation in America for a very long time,” she said.
Harris continued:
“We have got to recognize, back to that earlier point, people aren’t starting out on the same base in terms of their ability to succeed and so we have got to recognize that and give people a lift up.”
When she told the radio show’s host, Charlamagne Tha God, that “Livable Incomes for Families Today,” the Middle Class Act tax cut plan is one way to address the rising costs and the inequities of living in the U.S., the host asked if her comments were about reparations. “Yes,” Harris said.
She also noted the “systemic racism” in the criminal justice system .“We have a problem with mass incarceration in particular of black and brown men,” Harris said. “There is no question that no mother or father in America should have to sit down when their son turns 12 and start having the talk with that child about how he may be stopped, arrested or killed because of the color of his skin,” she said, addressing police brutality.
Warren also said she supported reparations for both African Americans and Native Americans. “America has an ugly history of racism,” Warren said after addressing Democrats at an annual state dinner in New Hampshire, according to The Boston Globe. “We need to confront it head-on. And we need to talk about the right way to address it and make change.”
Warren later expanded on her ideas for Native American reparations in a statement, writing that, “tribal nations have unique interests, priorities and histories, and should not be treated monolithically.”
“I fully support the federal government doing far more to live up to its existing trust and treaty responsibilities and that includes a robust discussion about historical injustices against Native people.”
She continued: “Tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the federal government, and they deserve a seat at the table in all decisions that will affect the well-being of their people and their communities.”
Another Democratic Presidential hopeful, Julian Castro, also has said he endorses reparations.
A 2017 article in Quartz, noted that to “repair this breach, it’s becoming increasingly clear that reparations for black slavery and its legacy—including Jim Crow—must be part of the equation.”
The article continued:
“Facing what activist Randall Robinson calls ‘the debt’ to people of African descent, those of us who are low on melanin content (aka ‘white’) will have to address the often uncomfortable history of how lighter skin color conferred, and continues to confer, economic advantage. To do otherwise is to live a destructive lie, perpetuating a perverted myth of deservedness that holds back our entire society and each of us individually.”
As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his groundbreaking 2014 Atlantic article, reparations are “the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.”
“Reparations,” he continued, “beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the futureCoates said.