WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today voted with the U.S. House of Representatives to send the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, a consolidated election and voting rights bill, to the U.S. Senate for urgent consideration. This is the third voting rights bill sent to the U.S. Senate by the U.S. House in the 117th Congress.
“Republicans are pushing more than 440 separate bills in almost every state to disenfranchise voters. In fact, in the last year, 19 have enacted 34 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. By creating strategic obstacles to the ballot box and installing partisans who supported Trump’s Big Lie to oversee future elections, they are torching public trust in our electoral systems. The only way to fight this erosion of our rights is by passing federal legislation to ensure every vote counts,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “House Democrats have led the charge in ensuring voting rights are protected. Last year, we passed the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act – and this morning the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Now, the Senate must act to tear down barriers to the ballot box before American democracy is completely undone.”
The legislation passed today will add H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to S. 2747, the Freedom to Vote Act, which was introduced in the Senate on September 14, 2021. Similar to the For the People Act passed in the House, the Freedom to Vote Act makes numerous reforms to improve access to the ballot for all Americans, advance commonsense election integrity reforms, and protect our democracy from emerging threats. A full summary of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act can be found here.
In August 2021, Pingree 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.
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.
In September, Pingree authored an op-ed on voting rights outlining the importance of these bills.