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The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act
The right to vote is foundational to our form of government. Voting allows citizens to have a say in decisions that affect our lives and to be fairly represented by officials who are responsive to our needs.
The cry of our dear neighbor impels us as Sisters of St. Joseph, together with our associates and companions, to commit ourselves to work towards dismantling interlocking systems of oppression, including those that would limit access to voting. Our sisters marched in Selma to help secure the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Sisters of St. Joseph were part of the treatment team that cared for John Lewis when he was brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettis Bridge fighting for voting rights. Today, we urge the swift passage of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. These are two steps to ensuring that our voting processes do not discriminate against voters based on race.
Please find further information about both The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act below.
Bipartisan support and the filibuster
Both of these bills deserve bipartisan support. As the Community of St. Joseph, which values seeking unity and communion, we are disheartened by the absence of such collaboration. If our Congress cannot find compromises that allow passage of these two bills, then we reluctantly support a filibuster carve-out by the United States Senate for bills that relate to voting rights.
About these bills
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore the full protections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. This new legislation is updated in part to reduce its vulnerability to another court challenge on the grounds of having outdated data on discriminatory voting practices, which was the basis for the 2013 Supreme Court decision. The revised bill is also worded to address a more recent Supreme Court decision that made the use of lawsuits against election officials under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act more difficult.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act provides the necessary tools to address discriminatory voting practices and protects all Americans’ access to the ballot box. This bill:
- Creates a new coverage formula that applies to all states and hinges on finding repeated voting rights violations in the preceding 25 years;
- Establishes a targeted process for reviewing voting changes in jurisdictions nationwide, focused on measures that have historically been used to discriminate against voters;
- Allows a federal court to order states or jurisdictions to be covered for results-based violations, where the effect of a particular voting measure (including voter ID laws) is to lead to racial discrimination in voting and to deny citizens their right to vote;
- Increases transparency by requiring reasonable public notice for voting changes;
- Allows the Attorney General authority to request federal observers be present anywhere in the country where there is a serious threat of racial discrimination in voting;
- Revises and tailors the preliminary injunction standard for voting rights actions to recognize that there will be cases where there is a need for immediate preliminary relief; and
- Increases accessibility and protections for Native American and Alaska Native voters.
The Freedom to Vote Act
The Freedom to Vote Act creates national standards for states that have voter identification requirements, expands early voting, makes Election Day a national holiday, bans partisan gerrymandering and implements election security and campaign finance measures. This bill is a compromise effort to find middle ground that is acceptable to moderates of both parties, replacing the For the People Act. It addresses new legislation in many states that increases voting restrictions.
The Freedom to Vote Act:
- Allows for same-day voter registration,
- Establishes automatic voter registration,
- Protects and expands access to voting by mail,
- Establishes 15 days of early voting, including at least two weekends,
- Restores voting rights to individuals who have been previously incarcerated,
- Prevents partisan gerrymandering, and
- Protects against voter intimidation.