Dear Honorable Chairman Jerome Nadler,
We the undersigned are writing you today to strongly encourage you to bring the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to a Mark-Up and vote in the House Judiciary Committee Committee with all deliberate speed, so Congress can vote on restoring the Section 5 of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. HR 4 as you know would require jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression of minorities to obtain pre-approval from the Justice Department or federal courts before making changes to election processes. The John Lewis VRAA is an attempt by lawmakers to find a formula for preclearance. The VRA or HR 4 passed the House of Representatives on December 6, 2009; and is widely regarded as the single most effective piece of election protection legislation in our nation’s history. HR 4 updates the VRA’s coverage formula to restore the Act’s full force.
According to the Brennan Center, in the absence of the full force of the VRA, the 2018 Midterm elections were marred by the most brazen voter suppression seen in decades. Election officials executed large scale voter purges and closed polling places and early voting sites, especially in minority neighborhoods. Burdensome voter ID requirements targeted minority citizens; unnecessarily strict regulation rules, like Georgia’s exact match policy, put 53,000 voter registration on hold, the overwhelmingly majority of whom were Black people, Latino, and Asian American voters. And, many absentee ballots were suspiciously rejected. A fully functional VRA would have prevented many of these abuses. For 50 years, Section 5 of the VRA’s pre-clearance provision deterred and prevented discriminatory changes to voting rules right up to the time the Supreme Court halted it’s operation.
We know the Senate Rules Committee has recently held two hearings on the VRAA. Politico Magazine reported that HR 4 may not be taken up in the House until September of 2021, as the House is holding hearings in an attempt to build up a case to defend it against legal challenges. We also know that President Biden strongly supports HR 1, having said, “The country supports it, Congress should act,” during his last address to Congress.
According to the Brennan Center For Justice, more than 360 bills have been proposed in 47 states since the gutting of the VRA. These measures target, and will disproportionately harm voters of color, young voters, and voters with disabilities. In Georgia, for instance, a recent Brennan Center analysis found that proposed bills to cut Sunday voting access would burden black voters the most. It is now against the law in Georgia to serve food and drink to those in voting waiting lines, many which are often several hours long. This is a brazen civil rights violation, that reminds us of the Jim Crow voter suppression laws, such as counting jelly beans in order to register to vote.
We the undersigned strongly support the “For The People Act,” one of the most progressive election
protection bills in our nation’s history. Almost on a weekly or monthly basis, we hear of a new voter suppression bills that are being passed in Republican majority state legislatures across the nation. Would it not be prudent to pass HR 4 as soon as possible, and not wait until September 2021, in order to ensure that few states as possible introduce or pass more onerous and racist voter suppression laws that an updated VRA simply would not allow? As the For the People Act makes it’s way through the Senate, that the House Judiciary Committee can begin the people’s work on calling HR 4 to an expedited hearing, so it can be brought to the House and Senate Floor for a full vote, and then once passed by both the House and Senate, can be signed into law by President Biden.