It aims to restore a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
House Democrats introduced a new voting rights package to honor the work of Rep. John Lewis, the iconic civil rights leader who passed away last week.
Led by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, legislators created a new comprehensive bill that restores key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark piece of legislation that aimed to end racial discrimination in voting practices. According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the new bill would help provide additional resources for election officials, and include a plan to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill also addresses a 2013 Supreme Court decision that ended the requirement that some states get federal approval to make changes to their voting laws. Democrats argue this decision has led to voter suppression in several states, through tactics like strict voter ID laws.
Back in December, House Democrats passed a bill that would develop a process to decide which states have to receive clearance from the Justice Department if they have a history of voting rights violations. But the Senate has not approved the legislation.
“There can be no greater tribute to John Lewis than to having a bill passed that protects and affirms the right for which he worked all his life,” Hoyer said in an interview with The Hill.
Legislators are also considering other ways to honor Lewis. For instance, many Democrats have expressed interest in allowing Lewis to lie in state at the Capitol rotunda, a rare honor reserved for the most revered American public figures.
“[Lewis] personifies that commitment to achieving voting equity and access and fairness for all Americans. He knew the most fundamental right in a democracy was the right to vote,” Hoyer said.
However, the honor is complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Having hundreds, or even thousands, of people walk through the capital to pay their respects could pose an unacceptable risk.
The bill is named after Lewis and is expected to come up for a vote in the coming months.