Congressman Tim Congressman Tim Ryan Votes in Favor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act | Congressman Tim Ryan
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Congressman Tim Congressman Tim Ryan Votes in Favor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

August 24, 2021
Press Release
Legislation Restores Protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Washington, DC Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) today voted in favor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4). This critical legislation would restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) which were gutted by the Supreme Court in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision and more recently in the 2021 Brnovich v. DNC decision. Ryan is an original cosponsor of the legislation. 

The bill aims to protect voters from discrimination by restoring and strengthening the protections of the VRA. The passage of H.R. 4 comes amid the most coordinated state-level effort to restrict the right to vote in generations. 

“The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy and must be protected.  Every American who is eligible deserves an equal opportunity to elect their representatives and weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. Restricting access to the ballot disproportionately affects African-Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans but also elderly people and those with disabilities,” said Congressman Ryan. “Voting in elections is one of our country's most sacred freedoms, and we should do everything in our power to make it easier, not more difficult.”

For decades, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) ensured equal access to the ballot box for Black and minority voters by requiring states and localities with a history of voter discrimination—as determined in Section 4—to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. However, in its infamous 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down Section 4, arguing that voter discrimination was an issue of the past and that the formula used to determine which states and localities were subject to preclearance was outdated.

On July 1, 2021, in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC, the Supreme Court struck another devastating blow to the VRA, upholding Arizona’s voting laws targeting Latino and other minority voters and making it more difficult for parties to challenge racially discriminatory voting laws under Section 2. 

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will restore protections of the VRA gutted by the Supreme Court. It would once again prohibit states and localities with a recent history of voter discrimination from restricting the right to vote by including an updated formula for determining which states and localities are subject to federal oversight. It would also amend Section 2 of the VRA to eliminate the heightened standard for challenging voter discrimination that the Supreme Court created in its decision in Brnovich v. DNC.

A previous version of H.R. 4 passed in the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress by a vote of 228-187, but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Last year, the bill was renamed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to honor the legacy of civil rights icon and former Congressman John Robert Lewis who passed away on July 17, 2020.