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House Judiciary Committee Passes H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019

Washington, October 23, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee successfully marked-up H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019, which finally responds to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that effectively gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s most important enforcement mechanism—its preclearance requirement contained in Section 5—by striking down the coverage formula that determined which jurisdictions would be subject to preclearance.H.R. 4 amends the Voting Rights Act to restore that core civil rights statute to its full vitality, updating the coverage formula and strengthening other related provisions of the VRA.

"The right to vote lies at the very core of our democracy and is foundational to the rule of law," said Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "Before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states and localities implemented voter suppression measures aimed at African Americans and other people of color, secure in the knowledge that it could take many years before these measures could be successfully challenged in court, if at all. In response, Congress required certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get approval, or a preclearance requirement, from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting laws or practices. But the Shelby County decision in 2013—which gutted the preclearance requirement—unleashed a deluge of voter suppression laws across the nation. H.R. 4 provides a much-needed restoration of those protections to finally reverse this tide of voter suppression laws. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments expressly empower us to enact laws protecting the right to vote and guaranteeing the equal protection of all citizens, and I am proud to have led the House Judiciary Committee in successfully recommending this legislation to the full House."

"As the great Maya Angelou said, ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them,'" said Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Chair Steve Cohen (D-TN). "When jurisdictions enact laws that disenfranchise voters, we should believe that is their intent. H.R. 4 would restore the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act and prevent jurisdictions that have passed discriminatory voting laws in the past from enacting laws that would further erode voting rights. The right to vote is the most fundamental right in our democracy, and it must be protected."

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