House Passes John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act | Sojourners

House Passes John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Dr. Deborah Turner of the League of Women Voters (LWV), Rabbi Jonah Pesner of Religious Action Network, Virginia Kase Solomón of LWV, Rev. Melvin Wilson of Saint Matthew AME Church, and Ben Jealous of People for the American Way lead a civil disobedience action during a voting rights rally at the White House. LWV, People for the American Way, Black Voters Matter, and many other organizations hosted the rally to pressure Congress and President Biden to protect voting rights after many states passed laws to make voting more difficult for minorities. Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via Reuters.

The House of Representatives passed HR 4, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advacement Act, 219-212, which faith leaders and other voting rights advocates believe is a crucial step in voter protection. 

“Tireless hours by members of Congress and civil rights leaders have brought the issue of federally mandated voter suppression to the forefront of conversations around American democracy,” Rev. Al Sharpton said in a news release through March On For Voting Rights. “This is only the start of the fight to move farther and farther away from the Jim Crow Era.”

The Supreme Court struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and again in 2021. The House-passed bill would seek to redress the court's objections with an updated formula for which jurisdictions are subject to additional federal scrutiny, according to Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), the bill's sponsor. At least 18 states have enacted laws so far this year that restrict voter access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

The bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate, which is split between Republicans and Democrats 50-50; it would need the support of 60 senators. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), has expressed support for the proposal.

On Twitter, Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) expressed his support for the bill, saying the bill “will help protect the sacred right to vote across our nation. Now, the Senate must do its part—and I’ll be fighting to make sure we do.”

Interfaith Power and Light, a religious group organizing around combatting climate change, tweeted earlier in August that “People of faith believe that for democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all. It’s time for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to enact national standards for voting to ensure all of our voices are heard.”

Martin Luther King III, who is chariman of the Drum Major Institute and organizing with March On For Voting Rights, encouraged individuals to join in marches happening across United States on Aug. 28. 

“John Lewis told us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. We are in a battle to protect our most sacred right and I commend the House of Representatives for recognizing the necessity of the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act,” King said in the news release. “Now, it’s time for us, the American People, to show the Senate that we are demanding an end to the filibuster, that Jim Crow relic, and an end to voter suppression, once and for all.”

A more expansive voting reform bill was previously passed by the House this year but was blocked by Senate Republicans in June. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said voting rules should be left to the states.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said earlier this month that the chamber would consider more voting rights legislation in September. Fearing a similar outcome, voting rights activists want all 50 Senate Democrats to unite in a bid to change Senate rules requiring 60 votes to advance legislation.

At least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has said he will not go along with changing the rules to help pass a voting rights bill.

Reuters reporting contributed to this story.