House Democrats push to introduce John Lewis voting rights bill within weeks

House Democrats push to introduce John Lewis voting rights bill within weeks
© Bonnie Cash

House Democrats are looking to introduce their revised version of the John LewisJohn LewisAlyssa Milano arrested at White House voting rights protest Kinzinger defends not supporting voting rights act: 'Democrats have to quit playing politics' What's at stake if Trump wins in 2024? Single-party authoritarian rule MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act in the next few weeks, Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldProgressives cheer, moderates groan as Biden visit caps chaotic week  Biden visits Capitol with agenda in the balance WHIP LIST: How House Democrats, Republicans say they'll vote on infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.C.) said Friday on the 56th anniversary of the original Voting Rights Act being signed into law.

“Hopefully we can get it introduced during a pro forma session during the month of August,” Butterfield, head of the House Administration Committee’s subpanel on elections, told reporters during a Zoom call.

“But if the House does not return during the month of August for other reasons, then I can anticipate reasonably that we may be able to vote on this during the week of Sept. 2, but that is not my decision,” he said.

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Butterfield’s subcommittee released a 128-page report Friday on the state of the country's voting rights. The report will serve as guidance for the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of drafting the bill that has long been touted as one of Democrats’ top legislative priorities.

Named after the late Georgia congressman and voting rights champion John Lewis (D), the proposal will seek to update the formula that formerly dictated the federal preclearance found in the Voting Rights Act.

Under the preclearence, states and jurisdictions with noted histories of racial voting discrimination were required to get new voting rights laws approved by the Justice Department before implementing them.

However, the formula was ruled outdated and therefore unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 2013 landmark Shelby v. Holder decision. 

At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts said Congress would be well within its rights to draft a new formula that accurately represents the current voting rights landscape in the U.S.

The panel’s report highlights half a dozen red flags, including voter purges, voter I.D. requirements, language accessibility, the reduction of polling places and novel election laws that restrict access to the polls.

GOP-led state legislatures have moved to pass a slew of restrictive voting laws following the 2020 presidential election, with hundreds of bills introduced since January.

Per the Brennan Center for Justice, 18 states have passed a combined 30 laws that voting rights advocates believe make casting a vote harder, especially for people of color.

In general, voting rights have become a fiercely partisan battleground following last year’s election, spurred by debunked claims by former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE that the race was stolen from him via rampant voter fraud.

Democrats in Congress have pushed two bills, the For the People Act and H.R. 4, with an effort to combat the states' legislation.

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But with only a slim advantage in the Senate and zero Republican support, Democrats have been unable to push voting rights legislation past the upper chamber’s filibuster.

Democrats currently have the ability to axe the procedural rule, but moderate Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting Democrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting On The Money — It all comes down to Bernie and Joe MORE (D-Ariz.) have made it clear they don’t support any filibuster reform, even for voting rights.

Thus, a similar fate is likely to befall H.R. 4 unless Senate Democrats are able to scrounge 10 GOP votes.

Manchin and Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Manchin, Tester voice opposition to carbon tax Rachel Levine sworn in as first openly transgender four-star officer in health corps MORE (R-Alaska) have encouraged bipartisanship on the legislation, but the call to action has yet to produce more Republican proponents.

Butterfield said during the virtual call that he was still “hopeful” about the bill’s chances in the Senate.

“I'm confident that Senator Manchin is committed to protecting the voting rights of voters of color in every respect,” the congressman said. “It's my hope that Sen. Manchin can persuade 10 of his Republican colleagues to vote for this legislation.”