Murray, Cantwell, Colleagues Reintroduce John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined 47 of their colleagues in co-sponsoring the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This legislation would restore the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, combat minority voter suppression, and help preserve the legacy of John Lewis—one of America’s greatest civil rights heroes.

“If we want to ensure our democracy stays a democracy, we have to pass strong federal voting rights protections without delay. So I’m proud to help introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and I want to see the Senate vote on this as quickly as possible,” said Senator Murray. “The House has already passed this bill, and now in the Senate we need to use every legislative tool, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure voting rights protections can be signed into law. People’s ability to make their voices heard in our country—and nothing less than the future of our democracy—is at stake.”

“When states are passing laws that undermine the right to vote, it’s our job as Congress to step in to protect our democracy,” said Senator Cantwell. “John Lewis spent his life fighting for justice and standing up to voter suppression. We must honor his legacy is by restoring the Voting Rights Act and ensuring equal access to the ballot box.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted critical voter protections within the Voting Rights Act, crippling the federal government’s ability to prevent discriminatory changes to state voting laws and procedures. In the wake of Shelby County, states across the country have responded with strict voter ID laws and other voter suppression schemes that have systematically disenfranchised minority voters. These discriminatory efforts to restrict access to the ballot box undermine the progress and equality that John Lewis fought hard over the decades to achieve, from his time as a civil rights movement leader to his tenure in Congress.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as provide the federal government with new critical tools to combat voter suppression throughout the states. Among other efforts to strengthen voter access and election integrity, this bill:

  • Restores and updates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is the permanent nationwide prohibition against race-based discrimination in voting.
  • Assert that a private right of action exists under the Voting Rights Act.
  • Provides protections to election workers and polling places.
  • Includes the Native American Voting Rights Act to expand access to the ballot box for those living on Tribal lands.
  • Includes penalties for voting rights violations.
  • Attempts to remedy U.S. Supreme Court’s Brnovich v. DNC Decision, which significantly weakened Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The bill would also update the Voting Rights Act formula used to determine which states and localities might need extra oversight of voting due to a pattern of discrimination. It would ensure that last-minute changes to polling locations or other election details do not adversely affect voters by requiring officials to publicly announce all voting changes at least 180 days before an election. It would also expand the government’s authority to send federal observers to any jurisdiction where there may be a substantial risk of discrimination at the polls on election day or during an early voting period.

Senators Murray and Cantwell have been a long-time advocates of improving voting access and election security to make sure every eligible American has the ability to vote. In July 2020, both Murray and Cantwell joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Following House passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act earlier this summer, Senator Murray called for quick action using all legislative tools available to pass the bill.In January 2021, Cantwell introduced the Vote At Home Act to expand vote-by-mail ballot access, providing voters with pre-paid ballot return envelopes, and enacting automatic voter registration. 

In addition to Senators Murray and Cantwell, Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Padilla (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Ossoff (D-GA), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warnock (D-GA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR) are cosponsors of the legislation.

The full text of the bill is available HERE.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available HERE