Newswire : Sewell, Leahy introduce The Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR – 4)

U.S. Rep.
Terri Sewell

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation today to help address the most egregious forms of recent voter suppression by developing 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.

“In my hometown of Selma and throughout Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, Americans bled, marched and died for the right to vote, but the modern-day voter suppression we saw in the 2018 mid-term elections shows that old battles have become new again,” Sewell said. “Since the Supreme Court’s Shelby vs. Holder decision, many states have enacted more restrictive voting laws that have led us in the wrong direction. The Voting Rights Advancement Act helps protect and advance the legacy of those brave foot soldiers of the civil rights movement by restoring key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and empowering the Justice Department to stop voter suppression tactics before they go into place.”

“Nearly 54 years ago next week, on March 7, a courageous band of civil rights activists – including my friend and hero, Congressman John Lewis – began a march for the right to vote from Selma to Montgomery. They marched non-violently in the face of unspeakable violence. On that Bloody Sunday, they shed their blood for the ballot. But we gather today for much more than a vital history lesson,” Leahy said. “We assemble today for a call to action. Voter suppression efforts are unacceptable and un-American. But because of a disastrous Supreme Court decision, they are almost impossible to stop. The Voting Right Advancement Act we are introducing today would restore and bolster the Voting Rights Act, and undo the damage done by the Shelby County decision.”

“The election of 2016 was a wakeup call. Voters were threatened and given false information. Hundreds of thousands of voters were purged from the rolls all over the country. People who had voted for decades were turned away from the polls. What happened? It was the first election in over 50 years without the protection of the Voting Rights Act,” Rep. John Lewis said. “We must repair what the Supreme Court damaged. We must pass this bill to ensure that every American has equal freedom to participate in our democracy.”

“The right to vote is one of the most sacred and fundamental tenets of our democracy. Despite the progress we have made as a nation since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, there are far too many examples of those in power working to make it harder for folks to vote,” Sen. Doug Jones said. “Efforts to restrict access to the ballot box disproportionately affect people of color, the elderly and people with disabilities. It’s just plain wrong. That’s why I am proud to once again join Congresswoman Sewell and our colleagues in introducing this important legislation and carrying on the legacy of all those who fought tirelessly to extend the right to vote to every American.”

“Voting is the basis of our democracy, and yet a privilege still denied to many. While we’ve seen state leaders in places like Texas challenge voting rights and actively suppress turnout, we can and must do more to break down barriers that keep Americans, and disproportionately minority communities, from the polls,” CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro said. “I’m proud to support H.R.4, which would restore a critical Voting Rights Act protection by requiring states with recent history of voter discrimination seek federal preclearance for election charges, and in doing so, prevent voter suppression, make elections more transparent and ensure all Americans, regardless of their zip code or skin color, have a voice in our democracy. This is not a partisan issue. As Americans, we must ensure the integrity of the robust democracy our Founding Fathers envisioned for our nation.”

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 and cuts to polling places.

The House and Senate will also hold a series of hearings to document the public record of voter suppression and the need for federal pre-clearance enforcement. In addition to Reps. Sewell, Lewis and Castro the bill was introduced by 207 representatives. In addition to Sens. Leahy and Jones, the bill was introduced by 46 senators.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act is endorsed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Human Rights Campaign (HRC); Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC); National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund; Native American Rights Fund (NARF); National Education Association (NEA); Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF); NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Newswire: Will Reparations become Democrats’ campaign theme?

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

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.