Leahy Leads 46 Senators In Introducing The Voting Rights Advancement Act Of 2019 To Restore & Strengthen The Landmark Voting Rights Act

. . . “We Assemble Today For A Call To Action” To Protect Voting Rights And Counter Voter Suppression

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led 46 senators Tuesday in introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019, alongside Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), who led more than 200 House members in introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.   

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted Section 5 of the landmark Voting Rights Act, consequently 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 unleashed a torrent of voting restrictions that have systematically disenfranchised minorities and the marginalized and made voting more difficult.  Leahy pointed out that last year’s elections alone – in which tens of thousands of Americans were prevented from casting their ballots by these suppression schemes – are proof positive that the right to vote requires “unwavering vigilance, now more than ever.”  The Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, improve and modernize the landmark legislation, and provide the federal government with other critical tools to combat what has become a full-fledged assault on Americans’ right to vote.

Senator Leahy said:  “Nearly 54 years ago next week, on March 7th, a courageous band of civil rights activists – including my friend and hero, Congressman John Lewis – began a march for the right to vote from Selma to Montgomery.  They marched non-violently in the face of unspeakable violence.  On that Bloody Sunday, they shed their blood for the ballot.  But we gather today for much more than a vital history lesson.  We assemble today for a call to action.  Voter suppression efforts are unacceptable and un-American.  But because of the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, they are almost impossible to stop.  The Voting Right Advancement Act we are introducing today would restore and bolster the Voting Rights Act, as well as undo the damage done by the Shelby County decision.” 

Congresswoman Sewell said:  “In my hometown of Selma and throughout Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, Americans bled, marched and died for the right to vote, but the modern-day voter suppression we saw in the 2018 mid-term elections shows that old battles have become new again. Since the Supreme Court’s Shelby vs. Holder decision, many states have enacted more restrictive voting laws that have led us in the wrong direction. The Voting Rights Advancement Act helps protect and advance the legacy of those brave foot soldiers of the civil rights movement by restoring key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and empowering the Justice Department to stop voter suppression tactics before they go into place.”

Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) said:  “The right to vote is one of the most sacred and fundamental tenets of our democracy. Despite the progress we have made as a nation since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, there are far too many examples of those in power working to make it harder for folks to vote. Efforts to restrict access to the ballot box disproportionately affect people of color, the elderly and people with disabilities. It’s just plain wrong. That’s why I am proud to once again join Senator Leahy and Congresswoman Sewell and our colleagues in introducing this important legislation and carrying on the legacy of all those who fought tirelessly to extend the right to vote to every American.”

Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) said:  “The election of 2016 was a wakeup call.  Voters were threatened and given false information.  Hundreds of thousands of voters were purged from the rolls all over the country.  People who had voted for decades were turned away from the polls.  What happened?  It was the first election in over 50 years without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.  We must repair what the Supreme Court damaged.  We must pass this bill to ensure that every American has equal freedom to participate in our democracy.”

Introduced by Leahy, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

The legislation is also supported by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Brennan Center For Justice, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Human Rights Campaign.

The full text of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 can be found here.

Senator Leahy’s full introduction statement can be found here.

An outline of the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 can be found here.

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