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Rep. Sewell introduces John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 12:40 PM CDT
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SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - With the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge as her backdrop, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell on Tuesday announced the introduction of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which she’ll work to pass through Congress.

“As a native of Selma and the Representative of Alabama’s Civil Rights District I knew there was no place more befitting,” Sewell said of the location for her announcement. “Here on the foot of the bridge to get in some good trouble, what John Lewis would call necessary trouble.”

Lewis, a Troy native and longtime U.S. congressman representing Georgia, died in 2020. He was among those injured by police as he attempted to cross the bridge in 1965 in a march to the state Capitol to demand equal voting rights. The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, led to the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court removed Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. If reinstated by H.R.4 it would require approval from the Department of Justice before municipalities could change their voting laws. This could help ensure equal access to the ballot box.

The 2021 Supreme Court case Brnovich v. DNC removed Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The new advancement act would add this back in, making it easier for parties to challenge racially discriminatory voting laws.

“For Alabamians it will mean we will have a stronger federal protection and federal oversight. It’s not just for Alabamians it’s for all Americans,” Sewell said.

“Fifty-six years ago, brave Foot Soldiers like John Lewis fought, bled, and died on this bridge for our most sacred and fundamental right–the right to vote. I’m proud to be introducing this bill today to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was gutted by the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby v. Holder and ensure that our democracy lives up to its ideals of justice and equality for all.”

Sewell has continued to introduce the bill in each new Congress since the Supreme Court’s ruling, recently naming it in Lewis’s honor. The bill has support from over 190 original co-sponsors including all members of House Democratic leadership.

Her office says the House will likely consider the bill for passage during the week of Aug. 23.

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