Washington – Today, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) voted to pass H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Thompson is an original cosponsor of this legislation to restore critical protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and keep the promise of our democracy for all Americans. Amid state-level efforts across the country to restrict the right to vote, H.R. 4 would prevent states and localities with a history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by requiring these jurisdictions to preclear election changes with the Department of Justice. H.R. 4 passed in the House of Representatives today by a vote of 219 to 212.
“Voter disenfranchisement has no place in American elections. Congress must ensure every citizen is able to freely exercise their right to vote, particularly as Republican state legislatures across the country continue to enact voting restrictions,” said Thompson. “As an original cosponsor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I am proud that today we took the steps needed to restore the Voting Rights Act and help protect the right to vote.”
For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) prevented states and localities from restricting the right to vote. However, in its Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the law and struck down the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC which made it more difficult to challenge discriminatory voting laws under Section 2.
Since 2013, there has been a steady increase in the number of restrictive voting laws. Just this year, 18 states have enacted at least 30 laws to restrict access to the vote.
Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Robert Lewis, H.R. 4 restores Section 4 of the VRA by establishing a modern-day formula that requires states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. H.R. 4 also restores Section 2 of the VRA by eliminating the heightened standard created by the Supreme Court in Brnovich v. DNC.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also:
- Allows federal courts to immediately halt questionable voting practices until a final ruling is made. This provision recognizes that when voting rights are at stake, prohibiting a discriminatory practice after the election has concluded is too late to truly protect voters' rights.
- Gives the Attorney General authority to request that federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
- Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes.
- Includes a retrogression standard for already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures.
- Help plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations in the lead-up to an election.
- Establishes a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s various notice requirements.
H.R. 4 can be found here.