BOYLE PRAISES HOUSE PASSAGE OF JOHN LEWIS VOTING RIGHTS ACT
WASHINGTON, DC – This evening, Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02) proudly joined House Democrats in passing H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, a bill which Boyle cosponsors. This legislation will restore the full strength of the Voting Rights Act, after the disastrous Supreme Court decisions of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 and Brnovich v. DNC in 2021.
“In order for a democracy to function properly, all voices must be heard”, said Congressman Boyle. “The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act restores the protections established in the original 1965 Voting Rights Act, and combats the ongoing efforts to suppress the vote in cities and states across the nation. It is an honor to join my colleagues to pass this historic legislation, which will restore vital voter protections and help ensure that every eligible voter in Pennsylvania and the nation can have their voices heard.”
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act reestablishes full protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination. Among its key provisions, the bill:
• In response to the Supreme Court decisions, provides a new coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance, based on current conditions.
• Also establishes “practice-based preclearance,” focusing administrative or judicial review narrowly on suspect practices that are most likely to be tainted by discriminatory intent or to have discriminatory effects, as demonstrated by a broad historical record.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, in response to the Supreme Court’s invitation to Congress to craft a new coverage formula for preclearance based on “current conditions,” creates a new coverage formula that hinges on a finding of repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years.
• Significantly, the 25-year period is measured on a rolling basis to keep up with “current conditions,” so only states and political subdivisions that have a recent record of racial discrimination in voting are covered.
• States and political subdivisions that qualify for preclearance will be covered for a period of 10 years, but if they have a clean record during that time period, they can be extracted from coverage.
The bill also importantly establishes nationwide “practice-based preclearance.” These provisions apply a nationwide preclearance requirement for jurisdictions that engage in certain kinds of proposed changes to voting rules, such as the following:
• The imposition of stricter voter ID requirements.
• Reductions in polling locations or polling hours.
• Reductions in the availability of non-English language voting materials relative to materials in English.
• Changes to procedures regarding maintenance of voter registration lists.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that is a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s damaging July 2021 Brnovich v. DNC decision. That decision substantially curtailed the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, making it significantly more difficult for parties to challenge laws that result in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of race, color, or language minority status. This bill would clarify Section 2 to make it a more effective tool for challenging racially discriminatory laws.
Specifically, the bill would create tests under Section 2 for assessing vote denial claims (such as voter ID laws) and vote dilution claims (such as redistricting cases) to ensure that plaintiffs have a fair opportunity to challenge already-implemented voting rules that result in discrimination based on race, color, or language-minority status.
The bill also includes other provisions, such as:
• Gives the Department of Justice the ability to sue for constitutional violations.
• Makes it easier to obtain preliminary injunctions.
• Allows challenges to voting rule changes that make minority citizens worse off in their ability to vote.
• Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes.
• Provides grants to small jurisdictions to comply with new public notice requirements.
• Allows the Attorney General authority to send federal election observers anywhere in the
country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting.