The John Lewis, Voting Advancement Act, would restore the Justice Department’s power to review voting law changes. The bill pays tribute to the late Congressman and civil rights activist who brutally attacked the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 1965 voting rights march.
The civil rights movement achieved a significant milestone by passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It serves as an essential protection for the American people’s right to vote and prohibits any form of racial discrimination in voting. Unfortunately 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 5 of the Act. This provision mandated certain states and localities with a history of discrimination to seek approval before changing their voting laws or practices.
Preclearance requires jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in their electoral process to seek permission from the Department of Justice to implement any change in their election laws, including instituting new voter identification requirements or closing polling places. It ensures that federal officials review these policies for potential impact on minority voters.
The John Lewis voting advancement act, would restore preclearance and strengthen it in response to the 2021 Supreme Court ruling Brnovich vs DNC. It would require jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to seek preclearance for any change to their electoral process and set a standard that doesn’t single out geographic areas but rather the overall impact on minority voters in a state.
The bill also includes provisions to protect against foreign interference in elections and to strengthen enforcement of campaign finance regulations. For example, it will create a new requirement for candidates to disclose their sources of funds and provide detailed information about expenditures. It will also expand the scope of what the Department of Justice can review during an investigation into possible election interference or violations of federal law.
The debate on voter ID is often framed as a choice between fraud and racism. But there is more nuance and variation than that. The legislation reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act (VRA) would expand access in ways that would reduce the need for photo ID.
The bill was renamed the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act after the death of the former Congressman and civil rights icon. It would restore key provisions struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court in its 2013 decision Shelby vs. Holder. It would also change how federal courts handle election cases.
A version of this bill passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year and is now in the Senate. The Senate version, the Freedom to Vote Act, has 47 co-sponsors—including every Democrat in the chamber and two Republicans, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The bill is similar to the previous version that passed the House and would amend Section 5 of the VRA to create a new coverage formula. States with a history of discrimination need approval from the Department of Justice or a federal court before implementing any voting laws. This would apply to states with 15 or more voting rights violations in the 25 years prior or ten or more violations if the state committed at least one.
The John Lewis Voting Advancement Act (FTVA) would create critical nationwide standards and safeguards to ensure fair elections. It would restore sections of the Voting Rights Act that were gutted by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, and it would provide strong protections for voters from discriminatory laws that prevent people from voting or disenfranchise them by restricting access to the polls.
The bill would set a new formula to restore the preclearance requirement that states with a history of discrimination must seek federal approval before enacting any changes to their voting rules or districts. It would also make it easier for people to challenge laws that discriminate against minority voters by establishing a lower standard for showing that a law has a disparate impact on a certain group of citizens.
The bill would also provide for a stronger campaign finance system by strengthening the Federal Election Commission’s ability to enforce campaign finance laws and investigate violations. And it would create a new obligation for campaigns to disclose instances of foreign interference. Finally, it would strengthen enforcement of illegal coordination between single-candidate PACs and campaigns. This legislation is a crucial countermeasure to an aggressive rash of anti-voting laws pushed by the Right that target the communities that have long persevered through needless barriers to voting to shape our democracy.
The John Lewis, Voting Advancement Act, would modernize and revitalize the Voting Rights Act, which Congress has slashed over the years. The bill would restore key provisions of the Act that were struck down or weakened by the Supreme Court, including its preclearance formula to address the Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and to counter the recent ruling in Brnovich v. DNC (2021).
It also includes a new provision to prevent future efforts to erect barriers to voting by requiring states to implement transparent protocols. Hence, residents know when their state’s voting laws are changing. This provision is a vital response to the widespread attacks on voting rights that have emerged nationwide since the 2020 election, including an unprecedented explosion of new laws that put up barriers to ballot access.
As per the wise words of civil and human rights activist John Lewis, freedom does not come easily. Rather, it is something that we must strive for, and every generation must play its role in establishing a more equitable and fair society. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, embodies this legacy by fighting for voting rights that ensure all Americans have the Freedom to vote safely and freely and that our democracy represents all voices.