A press release from Office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland.
Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021. This legislation will correct 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.
“With the passage of H.R.4, we are one step closer to protecting the right to vote for all Americans,” said Congresswoman Strickland. “The attempts to silence voters across our nation – especially communities of color – reveals just how urgently we need to restore the vital protections established by the original Voting Rights Act. Congress should honor John Lewis’ powerful legacy by making it easier, not harder, to vote.”
For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) empowered the federal government to block certain states and localities with dark histories of discriminatory barriers to voting from enacting restrictions on the right to vote. However, in its disastrous 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 hindering them. 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.
H.R. 4 restores the preclearance requirement and eliminates the heightened standard for challenging voter suppression laws, which was created by the Brnovich decision. H.R. 4 will also:
- Allow federal courts to 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.