The wait continues for the U.S. Senate to vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, also known as H.R.4, which could affect the future of voting rights for people of color.
On Aug. 24, the bill fell along partisan lines in the U.S. House of Representatives, with 219 Democrats in favor and all 212 Republicans opposed.
Now, members of the House and several civil rights activists and organizations are calling on the Senate to pass it as well.
“The people have made it clear that the right to vote must be protected everywhere, and for everyone,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said. “Anything short of that, and we will hold elected officials, who were voted in to safeguard our democracy, accountable.”
“We are encouraged that the House passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and we now turn our efforts to the Senate. We will keep track of every year and every day in the Senate, and make no mistake, we will be there, on the ground in 2022, in every state that needs a new Senator.”
H.R.4 will restore key elements of the Voting Rights Act that the Republican-dominated Supreme Court struck down in 2013.
Issues seen during recent elections were reduced polling hours for locations in communities of color and hurdles for voters to submit absentee ballots, all seen as tactics to reduce the turnout of low-income, often minority, voters.
The Voting Rights Act, signed on Aug. 6, 1965, outlawed discriminatory voting practices like literacy tests and a poll tax.
Black voters were, essentially, subjected to restrictive voting laws that mirror those being implemented today, including the recent passing of Georgia’s new voting rights law, which President Joe Biden has decried as “Jim Crow 2.0.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed that state bill behind closed doors, an unprecedented action since the Jim Crow era.
Georgia State Representative Park Cannon, in the spirit of ‘Good Trouble,’ contested Kemp’s efforts by knocking on the door during the signing and demanding to be a witness. Cannon was carried away by Atlanta Police then later charged with two felonies: obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting the General Assembly.
Once signed into law, H.R.4 will restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act by preventing changes to voting laws in states and localities with a history of voter discrimination.
The bill, named after the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, has ignited ‘Good Trouble’ among many civic leaders urging for legislation.
“My friend John understood that the right to vote was the foundation of all other legal rights in America,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-37) said. “I know if he were still with us, he would be leading the fight for voting rights. Now, it’s on all of us to live up to his legacy and continue that fight for social justice.”
“Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is of utmost importance,” Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn Political Action, said. “We’re in a five-alarm fire, with Republican attacks continuing to escalate, and the promise of democracy is on the line.”
“As the freedom to vote is being attacked by Republicans at the state level across the country, we need strong legislation to create national standards and accountability for those who try to rig the rules in their own favor,” Epting continued.
The only way to forgo the delay in legislation is for united Democrats to suspend or amend the filibuster rule with Biden’s strong support.
Supporters have called on grassroots efforts, encouraging citizens to call local Senators’ offices to urge their support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. To sign a petition that demands the Senate to defend voting rights for people of color, visit https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/Pass-VRAA.