ACLU Applauds the Introduction of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to Restore and Strengthen the Landmark Voting Rights Act

September 19, 2023 1:27 pm

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

WASHINGTON – Today the American Civil Liberties Union lauded the reintroduction of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore and strengthen the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full power after the Supreme Court eviscerated its core protections a decade ago. This legislation is vital to securing and preserving our fundamental right to vote without encountering racially discriminatory barriers.

“We are seeing statehouses across the country introducing and passing restrictive, discriminatory voting laws that target voters of color,” said Molly McGrath, voting rights campaign strategist at the ACLU. “As voters in these states battle voter suppression, it is this Congress’s duty to throw them a lifeline and urgently pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act (VRA) into law. The VRA was a monumental piece of legislation meant to end state and local voter suppression tactics designed to keep Black and Brown voters from casting ballots. For decades, the Voting Rights Act successfully protected Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized voters — but 10 years ago, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down its core “preclearance” requirement, which mandated that jurisdictions with long records of racially discriminatory voting practices seek federal approval before altering their voting laws and practices. On top of this, eight years after Shelby, the Supreme Court weakened another provision of the VRA — Section 2, a nationwide ban on voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or language — making court challenges to discriminatory tactics even harder.

In the years since Shelby, states have unleashed a torrent of voter suppression laws that disproportionately impact voters of color. These discriminatory anti-voter efforts continue today and include unnecessary strict photo ID laws; restraints on voter registration; voter purges; cuts to early voting and vote by mail; unconstitutional documentary proof of citizenship requirements; and polling place closures. Voters across the country continue to face arbitrary restrictions on absentee voting, bans on providing water to voters as they wait in hours-long lines, dropbox limitations, gerrymandering, and other restrictive policies that disproportionately burden marginalized communities.

Since enactment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been reauthorized and updated five times with large, bipartisan majorities. It is long past time for Congress to return to this strong bipartisan tradition to protect every citizen’s right to vote and move us closer to a democracy that works for all of us. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would begin to root out racially-driven voting barriers. If the VRA was never gutted by the Supreme Court, voters in states and localities with the worst history of voting discrimination would still be protected as these jurisdictions would have had to preclear changes to their voting laws or processes with the federal government, preventing discriminatory changes before they could be implemented and taint an election. The need to restore and strengthen the protections of the Voting Rights Act has never been more clear. For our democracy to work for all of us, it must include all of us.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release