REV. AL SHARPTON AND NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK APPLAUD THE REINTRODUCTION OF THE JOHN R. LEWIS VOTING RIGHTS ACT AT PIVOTAL POINT FOR DEMOCRACY—
Comes a Decade After Supreme Court Gutted Historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, Paving the Way for Discriminatory Election Policies
Washington, D.C. – Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network issued the following statement today on reintroducing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The legislation would restore the promise of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was stripped away in the devastating Shelby County v. Holder decision by the Supreme Court.
“The National Action Network supports today’s reintroduction of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4). This crucial legislation aims to establish a new, modern-day framework to determine which states and localities have a recent history of undermining our democracy. It will single out those discriminators who require such jurisdictions to preclear new election changes, preventing restrictive and discriminatory voting laws from taking effect. In this alternate reality, the ideals of democracy are now aggressively replaced with deliberate barriers to the ballot box in what amounts to the most concerted effort to restrict voting access in generations.
The freedom to vote is not an isolated issue. As John Lewis declared, our vote is the best nonviolent tool to combat regressive policies at every level of government that threaten the progress we have spent generations fighting to achieve. Policymakers have used the decade since the Voting Rights Act was gutted to erect a tangled web of barriers to the ballot. These archaic, discriminatory laws would close polling stations, curb early voting and voting by mail, impose strict ID requirements, limit multi-lingual voting materials, and make it more difficult to register to vote. As of May 29, 2023, at least 322 bills to restrict voting access were introduced in 45 states. In 11 states, 13 of these bills have already become law (Source: Brennan Center for Justice). These measures disproportionately impact voters of color, Native American voters, voters with disabilities, and older people.
The Supreme Court has continued to undermine key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In July 2021, in its Brnovich v. DNC and Arizona Republican Party v. DNC, the Supreme Court upheld racially discriminatory voter restrictions in Arizona despite evidence that these laws were intentionally designed to target Latino and other minority voters. In doing so, the Court further watered down the Voting Rights Act, making it harder to challenge discriminatory laws under Section 2. These cases and many more illustrate the urgent need to restore and strengthen the VRA fully.
Through our collective voice at the ballot box, we can challenge policies that target abortion access, affirmative action, education, LGBTQ rights, and other essential rights and protections. Exercising our voting rights empowers us to shape a future that reinstates equality, justice, and opportunity for all that has been strategically dismantled.
The National Action Network, as an organization dedicated to advocating for civil rights, social justice, and equality, urges policymakers, community leaders, and individuals to unite behind The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with a sense of urgency to restore the protection of our voting rights and ensure that our democracy remains a beacon of hope, progress, and fairness for future generations. By advocating for the passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, we demand an end to these discriminatory practices and a restoration of the inclusive democracy we strive for. Through the restoration and modernization of the Voting Rights Act, this act aims to prevent discriminatory voting policies from going into effect.
The future will have every voice heard and every vote counted, and every individual, regardless of race, gender, or background, has an equal opportunity to shape the nation. As we continue from the 60th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington, let the spirit of that moment embolden us to dismantle the barriers obstructing equitable access to the ballot, serving as a reminder of the progress we have made and a call to action to safeguard the integrity of our democracy for generations to come.”
“John Lewis dedicated his life to preserving our democracy, and there is no more fitting way to honor his legacy than to restore the right to vote through this legislation,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of NAN. “We marched on Washington this August to demand we preserve our democracy and take a stand against the violent hatred impacting Black, Latino, AAPI, Jewish, LGBTQ+ and other Americans. The best way to demand change is through the vote, which is why these barriers to the poll site must come down.