WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today joined a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing legislation that would defend American voters from discrimination and strengthen voter protection measures already on the books.
Today’s passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is in direct response to suppressive electoral laws and practices being implemented across the country that potentially discourage or prevent eligible voters from participating in the U.S. democratic system. Disproportionately, these actions target minority communities, voters with disabilities, and naturalized citizens.
Specifically, this legislation would restore the full strength of protections found in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) — particularly in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 and Brnovich v. DNC in 2021.
“Every eligible American voter deserves to have their voice heard. In Virginia, we have made important advancements in protecting the right to vote and making it straightforward for Americans to cast their ballots — but across the country, many communities are facing the reality that some states are making it harder to vote, putting obstacles in place to suppress or hinder this right,” said Spanberger. “This legislation takes real steps to counter these suppressive and restrictive maneuvers. The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy, and I am proud to see the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act pass in the House today. Former Congressman Lewis put his life on the line in the name of advancing equal rights for all Americans, and this legislation is a fitting legacy to him as we combat efforts that seek to suppress the votes and voices of our fellow citizens.”
Spanberger helped introduce the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as an original cosponsor last week. The bill is led by U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL-07).
The Spanberger-cosponsored legislation is named after former U.S. Representative John Lewis, who dedicated his life to the cause of voting rights. Former Congressman Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020. Last year, Spanberger honored the life and memory of the late Congressman Lewis with remarks on the floor of the U.S. House.
Recent Supreme Court decisions have significantly undermined VRA protections. For decades, the VRA has ensured equal access to the ballot box for Black and other minority voters by requiring states and localities with a history of voter discrimination — as determined in Section 4 — to obtain pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. However, in its Shelby County v. Holder decision, the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority struck down Section 4 — arguing that the formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to preclearance was outdated.
And earlier this year, in its Brnovich v. DNC decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s voting laws that target Latino and other minority voters. These state laws make it more difficult for parties to challenge racially discriminatory voting laws under Section 2.
Under the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination would once again be prohibited from restricting the right to vote. The legislation would include an updated formula for determining which states and localities are subject to federal oversight. Additionally, it would amend Section 2 of the VRA to eliminate the heightened standard for challenging voter discrimination that the Supreme Court established in its Brnovich v. DNC decision.
The legislation passed in the U.S. House today is similar to the prior version of H.R. 4 — the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Spanberger voted to pass in December 2019.