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Democracy Reform: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act

UPDATE: H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has been introduced in the House. Call your Representative and let them know you want them to pass the bill without delay.

Over the past two years alone, we’ve seen Republicans at every level of government, from state to federal officials, aggressively suppress the vote in communities of color. Twelve-hour long lines, poll closures, voter purges, and oppressive voter ID laws have all become the norm as Republicans attempt to further consolidate their political power in the face of an increasingly diverse, liberal electorate. Our democracy is currently rigged towards the white and wealthy, and those whose power is threatened by the existence of a multiracial, representative democracy rely on voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, corrupt money in politics, and other mechanisms to oppress Black people and people of color to maintain their hold on power.

That’s why we need bold, progressive democracy reform to create a functional democracy in which everyone is included and represented. Without it, we can’t achieve any of our other goals. All the issues we care about deeply: health care, immigration, ending wars, racial justice, climate change—fixing these things requires a democracy that is responsive to the people, not the powerful and wealthy.

H.R. 4, The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, alongside the H.R. 1, the For the People Act and H.R. 51, the D.C. statehood bill, are the cornerstones of the necessary reforms we need to unrig our democracy and make it work for all. Keep reading to learn more about the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and what you can do to pressure your members of Congress to make it happen.

Indivisible’s Democracy Reform Agenda

Our democracy is rigged to favor the white and wealthy. In addition to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we need bold, structural reforms to fix every aspect of our democracy, such as court expansion and making D.C. the 51st state. Read about the rest of our democracy reform priorities, and then call your representatives and demand they support our democracy agenda. 

What’s in H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act?

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and set the stage for the rampant increase in voter suppression we’ve seen throughout the country. The original Voting Rights Act of 1965 required states with a record of racial disrimination and voter suppression to submit any change in election procedures for approval in advance before any changes could take place. This approval process was called preclearance. Shelby County eliminated preclearance requirements, allowing states and other election administrators to enact blatant voter suppression without oversight from the federal government. While many of those suppressive tactics can and are challenged after implementation, it’s a lot harder to undo the damage after the fact than it is when discriminatory election laws are prevented from being enacted in the first place.

H.R. 4, which is named after the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, a man who risked his life for the right to vote, would re-establish the preclearance requirements that were thrown out in Shelby County, among other voter protections. It would also require preclearance on a nationwide scale for practices that disproportionately affect communities of color such as:

  • Changing election practices in diverse areas
  • Changing documents required to vote or to register to vote
  • Reducing access based on language 
  • Reducing polling locations in diverse areas

If turned into law, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act would be a crucial protection against racist voter suppression tactics while strengthening our electoral system as a whole.