August 24, 2021

Cárdenas Votes to Protect the Right to Vote for All Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today,  Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) voted to pass H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore critical protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and keep the promise of democracy for all Americans. Amid the most coordinated state-level effort to restrict the right to vote in generations, H.R. 4 would prevent states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by requiring these jurisdictions to obtain federal preclearance before changing their voting laws. 

“America was founded on the promise that as citizens, every single one of us, has a say in our democracy,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Yet today, empowered by the Big Lie, states across the country continuously undermine that promise by enacting deliberately restrictive, anti-voter laws. The truth is: it should not matter who your parents are, the color of your skin or where you live. If you are an American citizen, you deserve to vote without fear, intimidation and discrimination. Period. Heroes like John Lewis fought and bled for those basic ideas, and reminded us that the right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool to keep democracy alive. Today, we carry out his legacy by honoring our nation's sacred promise to ensure every American has equal access to the ballot box.”

For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) prevented states and localities from restricting the right to vote. However, in its disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the law, invalidating Section 4 and striking down the formula used to determine which jurisdictions are subject to federal oversight. In July 2021, the Court further weakened the law in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC which made it more difficult to challenge discriminatory voting laws under Section 2.

Since 2013, there has been a steady increase in the number of restrictive voting laws that disproportionately suppress turnout among minorities, young adults, and the elderly. This accelerated in 2021 with the Big Lie of a “stolen election.” Just this year, 18 states have enacted at least 30 laws to restrict access to the vote.

Named for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Robert Lewis, H.R. 4 restores Section 4 of the VRA by establishing a modern-day formula that requires states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. For areas to qualify for judicial pre-clearance, they must have the following qualifications:

  • States with a history of 15 or more violations at any level in the previous 25 years
  • States with a history of 10 or more violations, if one violation occurs at the state level in the previous 25 years
  • Subdivisions with 3 or more violations in the subdivision in the previous 25 years

H.R. 4 also restores Section 2 of the VRA by eliminating the heightened standard created by the Supreme Court in Brnovich v. DNC.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act also:

  • Allows federal courts to immediately halt questionable voting practices until a final ruling is made. This provision recognizes that when voting rights are at stake, prohibiting a discriminatory practice after the election has concluded is too late to truly protect voters' rights.
  • Gives the Attorney General authority to request that federal observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.
  • Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes.
  • Includes a retrogression standard for already-enacted but not-yet-implemented measures.
  • Help plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief for voting rights violations in the lead-up to an election. 
  • Establishes a grant program for small jurisdictions to help them comply with the bill’s various notice requirements. 

H.R. 4 can be found here.