House Democrats formally introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Bill on Tuesday. Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama made the announcement while standing in front of the Edmund Pettis Bridge, a place where Lewis and other civil rights activists endured physical abuse by police on what is known as "Bloody Sunday." Five months after the savage attack, former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was only made possible because of the personal sacrifices of amazing foot soldiers, many known and unknown, right here on this bridge, in my hometown 56 years ago,” Sewell said.
With H.R. 1 sitting in congressional limbo, The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill likely represents the Democrats' last chance to institute sweeping voting rights legislation. As several states look to restrict voting access and shift election oversight, House Democrats hope to use this bill to reinstate the oversight power exhibited in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, House Democrats want to reinstate measures that require areas with histories of racial discrimination to gain approval from the Department of Justice before implementing changes to their voting procedures.
“If a state or jurisdiction has had 10 or more violations — including a statewide violation — or 15 violations with no statewide violation, then that state would be considered a covered jurisdiction,” Sewell explained.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi plans to bring the bill to the floor when the House returns to Capitol Hill on August 23. At the same time, members of Congress will also resume talks about infrastructure spending.
“With the attack on the franchise escalating and states beginning the process of redistricting, we must act,” Pelosi added.
“When the House returns on August 23rd, Democrats plan to pass H.R. 4 – and we hope it can secure the bipartisan support this vital legislation deserves."