Congressman Cohen Calls for Passage of John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today spoke in support of passage for H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The historic measure, named for the late champion of civil rights, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, will protect voting rights by restoring important provisions of the Civil Rights Act that have been steadily eroded by U.S. Supreme Court rulings and restrictive state voter suppression laws.
Before the vote, Congressman Cohen spoke from the House floor and said in part:
“The Republicans say we don’t need this voting rights bill – we should leave the power with the states. My Subcommittee had 13 hearings over two years and the professors and attorneys told us that, every time Black and brown people gain in population and start to take power, there starts to be changes in the law to stop them from having power…Democracy is on the line. The right to vote is on the line. What we learned from our hearings is we need to pass the Voting Rights Act and protect people’s right to vote because that’s what America is about.”
See his entire remarks here.
State lawmakers have introduced over 400 voter suppression bills in 49 states in the 2021 legislative session alone. And at least 18 states enacted 30 laws that restrict access to the ballot, with many more on the way. These laws make it more difficult for eligible voters to cast their ballots by limiting early voting and vote by mail, reducing polling place availability, and purging voters from the rolls.
Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), before the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder, these efforts would have prevented from becoming law by the law’s preclearance provisions. Preclearance requires areas with a proven history of discrimination to certify with the United States Department of Justice that any new change to their elections would not be discriminatory. Preclearance stopped thousands of discriminatory voter suppression laws for the first 50 years after passage of the VRA – but the Shelby decision unleashed a torrent of discriminatory laws. For example, within 24 hours of the ruling, Texas and North Carolina reinstated voter ID laws, which were later found to be intentionally racially discriminatory by a United States District Court.
Now, with H.R. 4 – which is based on a thorough analysis of current conditions, including over a dozen hearings in the Judiciary Committee and thousands of pages of documentation – the House is restoring preclearance with a new formula. Today we renewed the original promise of the VRA, to “banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting.”