As Voter Suppression Laws Spread Across Nation, Pingree Supports Passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
Legislation would restore key protections of Voting Rights Act of 1965 which were gutted by the Supreme Court
Washington, August 23, 2021
Tags: Racial Justice
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today voted with her House colleagues to pass H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This critical legislation would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which were gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and more recently in Brnovich v. DNC.
“It took a century to finally enforce the 15th Amendment with passage of the Voting Rights Act. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to outlaw the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests and poll taxes. Tragically, the Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act and opened the floodgates to organized voter suppression. Today we are seeing the consequences of that misguided ruling with Republicans pushing more than 400 separate bills in almost every state to disenfranchise voters. With democracy at stake, I proudly voted today to pass H.R. 4 to revive and uphold Congressman John Lewis’s great legacy and protect access to the ballot box for all,” said Congresswoman Pingree.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured equal access to the ballot box for Black and minority voters by requiring states and localities with a history of voter discrimination to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. However, in its infamous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down key sections of the VRA, arguing that voter discrimination was an issue of the past.
On July 1, 2021, in Brnovich v. DNC, the Supreme Court struck another devastating blow to the Voting Rights Act, upholding Arizona’s voting laws targeting Latino and other minority voters and making it more difficult for parties to challenge racially discriminatory voting laws.
Beginning in April, the House Committee on Administration Subcommittee on Elections held a series of investigatory hearings and collected numerous findings and documents regarding the status of voting rights in America. The hearings culminated in a report which the Committee released on Friday, August 6, detailing modern-day efforts to restrict the right to vote. Meanwhile, the House Committee on the Judiciary also held hearings on the need to protect the right to vote.
Informed by these findings, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore protections of the Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court. It would once again prohibit states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by including an updated formula for determining which states and localities are subject to federal oversight. It would also amend the Voting Rights Act to eliminate the heightened standard for challenging voter discrimination that the Supreme Court created in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC.
In March, Pingree voted with her House colleagues to pass H.R. 1, The For The People Act. The For The People Act includes several reforms to limit the power of big money in politics, make American elections more transparent, and ensure government is accountable and accessible to all. The bill is still awaiting a vote in the Senate.
A high resolution video statement from Pingree on H.R. 4 is available for download here.
Photos of Pingree with late Congressman John Lewis is available for download here.