Terri Sewell urges passage of voting rights bill named after John Lewis

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Rep. Terri Sewell.
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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) is urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass a bill that she introduced last year to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in which a section of the act was struck down by Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.

The bill, originally called H.R. 4, was renamed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020. The renaming was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives with unanimous consent on on Monday, July 27.

“There is no better way to honor Congressman Lewis’ legacy than to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that every American – regardless of color – is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. It is fitting that the House moved today to rename H.R. 4 in John’s name,” Sewell said in an online press release.

“The bill has been languishing in Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard for 234 days. McConnell has taken to the floor to honor John, but the most significant thing he can do is to bring up the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 for a vote. Now is the time for action to honor John’s legacy!”

In the Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013, Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down. According to Sewell’s press release this section “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.”

Sewell’s press release goes on to say that others states have implemented “restrictive” voting policies since the Shelby County v. Holder decision was made.

The bill introduced by Sewell seeks to undo the change by “developing a process to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice.” Additionally it would require a national practice-based pre-clearance of what was described as discriminatory practices.

Becoming a covered jurisdiction that is required to pre-clear election changes can be done in three ways under Sewell’s proposed legislation, which are the following:

  • States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years; or
  • States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years; or
  • Political subdivisions or localities with 3 or more violations in that subdivision in the previous 25 years.