House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill named for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis that aims to fight new voting laws being passed in several Republican-led states across the country.
"Today, with enormous pride and endless gratitude for those who marched here before me, I will be standing at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to announce the introduction of #HR4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, in the 117th Congress," Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., tweeted Tuesday morning before making the formal announcement at the bridge later in the day.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge was the site of the Bloody Sunday beatings of civil rights marchers on March 7, 1965. Lewis, a Black civil rights leader who represented Georgia's 5th District in the House of Representatives from 1987 until his death last year, was severely beaten that day.
"As a native of Selma and the Representative of Alabama's Civil Rights District I knew there was no place more befitting to announce the introduction of H.R. 4 – The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act than the Edmund Pettus Bridge," Sewell said, according to CBS 42 in Birmingham.
''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," she said. "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."
The law would restore some elements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and allow the federal government to block state changes to election laws that it believes are discriminatory, Axios reported.
A 2013 Supreme Court decision struck down a section of the act that had required federal approval of state changes in election laws in states with a history of racial discrimination.
Democrats want to reinstate that portion of the act to fight laws like those in Georgia and Texas, among others, that they believe are based on stifling the minority vote.
Republicans assert that the laws are aimed at streamlining the voting process and preventing voter fraud.
In Georgia, for instance, Democrats have said Republicans are attempting to keep volunteers from handing out water in long lines, while Republicans counter that the new law only prevents handing out food and water by non-election personnel.
Sewell's bill is expected to be voted on by the full House next week. It will need 10 Republican votes to pass the Senate.
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