WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) voted to pass H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021.
A July report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that 18 states had enacted 30 laws that restrict the right to vote since the beginning of this year. Another recent report from the Committee on House Administration Subcommittee on Elections found “conclusively that discrimination in voting does, in fact, still exist” and “has grown steadily” in recent years.
“Democracy is the reason why I have my job and the honor of representing San Diego in the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Peters. “Recent laws restricting the right to vote are shameless and unacceptable in a country like ours. The disenfranchising consequences of these laws demonstrate why we must keep fighting for critical voting protections, just as the late John Lewis did up until his passing.”
H.R. 4 would strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) in response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively gutted the Act’s preclearance provision. That provision required states and localities with a history of voting discrimination to submit any proposed changes to their voting rules for approval to the Justice Department (DOJ) before those changes could take effect.
Over the course of 13 hearings in two Congresses, the House Judiciary Committee has built a substantial record demonstrating the continuing need for preclearance. The record shows that states have swiftly passed an evolving series of voter suppression laws in the absence of preclearance.
This legislation is an updated and strengthened version of H.R. 4 from the 116th Congress, which passed the House in December 2019 with unanimous Democratic support. This bill creates a new formula for determining which states need to clear their changes to voting laws with the DOJ. Under the new formula, DOJ must preclear any voting practice changes for:
- states that have violated 15 or more voting rights at any level in the last 25 years,
- states that have violated 10+ voting rights, and one of those violations was at the state level, or
- a local government or political subdivision that has 3 or more violations in the last 25 years.
The bill also clarifies that states must get the following practices precleared: changes to the method of an election, changes to jurisdiction boundaries, changes through redistricting, changes to voting qualifications, changes to multilanguage voting materials, and any changes to voting locations.