House Democrats on Tuesday passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancements Act, which seeks to expand federal ability to challenge discriminatory election rules.
The bill, which seeks to strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act that has been weakened by a pair of Supreme Court rulings, passed through the chamber by a vote of 219-212 along party lines.
If signed into law the bill would restore the Justice Department’s ability to block certain jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination from altering their voting rules, after the Supreme Court in 2013 ruled the method used to implement the provision was outdated.
It would also expand the ability of minorities to challenge state laws they find to be discriminatory in response to a 6-3 Supreme Court decision to overturn the provision earlier this year.
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., who introduced the bill, said it is necessary to restore federal oversight as states are “running amok” by imposing restrictive voting laws in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
“Old battles have become new again,” Sewell said, referring to discriminatory laws put in place during the civil rights era. “I want you to know that the modern day barriers to voting are no less pernicious than those literacy tests and those poll taxes.”
The bill is named after the late Congressman John Lewis, who Vice President Kamala Harris said Tuesday “dedicated his life to fighting for our nation’s highest ideals.”
“This important step represents progress, but there is more work to do,” Harris said in a statement. “The Senate must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act so it can become the law of the land and protect voters across the country.”
The bill received no Republican support in the House with Rep Rodney Davis, R-Ill., calling it a “partisan power grab, which circumvents the people to ensure one-party rule.”
It is expected to face opposition in the Senate, where Republicans blocked the more expansive For the People Act in a 50-50 vote in June.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for Congress to pass both pieces of legislation.
“The House is acting. The Senate also has to join them to send this important bill to my desk, and the Senate has to move forward on the people’s act — critical legislation to protect our democracy and the right to vote,” said Biden. “We need both of those.”
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