What is the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act?
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) is federal legislation to protect and enhance voting rights. It is named for the late Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, who was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as a young man and dedicated his life to the struggle for voting rights.
What’s the aim of the VRAA?
The bill aims to ensure equal access to the ballot box for all citizens, regardless of skin color or language ability. It restores and strengthens the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to address ongoing discrimination and disenfranchisement faced by voters of color, modernizing the most successful civil rights law in history to meet the current moment.
Why do we need the VRAA now?
The bill is urgently needed to repair damage done to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by the Supreme Court. Multiple harmful decisions from the high court over the past decade have unleashed a torrent of discriminatory voter suppression laws, especially in the Deep South.
What are the key provisions of the VRAA?
The VRAA prevents places with an established and recent record of discrimination in voting from passing laws that make it harder for people of color to vote. It strengthens protections against other forms of voter suppression and ensures voters whose fundamental right to vote has been denied can seek recourse in the courts.
What is the timeline for reintroducing the VRAA?
A bill has been introduced to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 each Congress since the Supreme Court gutted the landmark bill in 2013. The current bill, introduced in the House of Representatives on Sept. 19, 2023, builds on the last decade of work.
Does the VRAA have bipartisan support?
Voting rights has historically been a bipartisan issue in Congress. Since enactment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been reauthorized five times with large, bipartisan majorities, most recently in 2006 when it passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate (98-0) and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush. We are hopeful that lawmakers put partisan politics aside and work together to protect our most basic rights and freedoms.
How can I stay informed about the progress of the VRAA?
You can also join the national voting rights coalition’s Twitter storm on Thursday, Sept. 21, to lift your voice and learn about national organizations in the voting rights fight.
You can make your voice heard by contacting your elected representatives, participating in advocacy campaigns, attending rallies, and educating others about the importance of voting rights. Grassroots support plays a vital role in shaping the future of this legislation. Be sure to VOTE! Learn more about upcoming elections and related deadlines in SPLC’s five states—Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi — through our voter guides.
Photo at top: (Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty)