WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) voted to protect the sacred right to vote with H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Congresswoman Williams is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 4 and presided over debate of the bill in the House of Representatives. As the United States faces the worst voter suppression campaign since Jim Crow, this landmark legislation will fight back against the partisan, anti-democratic barriers keeping voters — especially voters of color — from the ballot box by restoring the critical protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I was proud to vote for H.R. 4, named after my friend, mentor, and predecessor, Congressman John Lewis,” said Congresswoman Williams, who is also Co-Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. “Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and doubled down on this assault again this year, state and local lawmakers have used this moment to pass voter suppression laws that are silencing the voices of voters who look like me. In my home state of Georgia, Jim Crow 2.0 has become the law of the land with S.B. 202. Passing H.R. 4 is the ‘good trouble’ Congressman Lewis wanted us to make as we ensure everyone has free and fair access to the ballot box, no matter your ZIP code. We need the protections in H.R. 4 and there are not two sides to this issue. You are either on the side of our democracy or you aren’t.”
For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) empowered the federal government to block certain states and localities with histories of discriminatory barriers to voting from enacting restrictions on the right to vote. However, in its Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the U.S. Department of Justice’s “preclearance” power under the VRA. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC, which made it more difficult for the federal government to challenge discriminatory voting laws.
As a result of the Shelby decision, states began passing voter suppression laws because there was no preclearance requirement stopping them. The restrictive laws – including voter roll purges, restrictions to mail-in voting, elimination of polling places, and more – have disproportionately reduced turnout among communities of color, voters with disabilities, young adults, and older voters.
This year, Republican-controlled state legislatures across the nation have accelerated their voter suppression campaign fueled by former President Trump’s Big Lie about the results of the 2020 election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 18 states have already enacted 30 laws that restrict the right to vote, and more than 400 voter suppression bills are still actively being considered across the country.
Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, H.R. 4 restores the preclearance requirement, creating a new practice-based preclearance requirement and allowing the federal government to once again reject many restrictions to voting. The bill also eliminates the heightened standard for challenging voter suppression laws, which was created by the Brnovich decision.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will also:
• Allow federal courts to immediately halt measures that put voting rights at stake until a final ruling is made.
• Empower the Attorney General to request that federal election observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
• Require reasonable public notice for proposed voting changes to increase transparency.
• Allow the federal government to review already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures.
• Help plaintiffs seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations ahead of an election.
• Establish a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s requirement to provide public notice for proposed voting laws.