WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — House Democrats are ramping up their efforts this week to pass a new Voting Rights Act.
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Tuesday from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in her hometown of Selma.
“As John Lewis would say, he shed a little blood on this bridge for the equal right to vote for all Americans,” Sewell said. “I’m here on the foot of the bridge to get into some good trouble.”
The legislation would require approval from the Justice Department before states with a recent history of voter discrimination can change election laws and procedures. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar requirement in 2013.
“We’re not looking to punish or penalize anyone,” Sewell said. “This is about restoring equal access to the ballot box.”
The release of new census data adds to Democrats’ urgency to pass the measure, with concerns some states will draw maps that don’t give growing minority populations fair representation.
“Congress must act, and we have the power to do so,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Monday.
Cohen said the legislation will combat new election laws in Republican-led states.
“Measures to further deny or bridge citizens’ right to vote on account of race, color or language-minority status,” he said.
“It is easier for eligible Americans to vote than ever before in America’s history,” said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-LA.
Johnson argues the measure is purely political.
“Our Democrat colleagues seek to propagate legislation that would amount to an unconstitutional federal power grab over local election laws,” he said.
Speaker Pelosi reaffirmed Tuesday the House will vote on the legislation next week when lawmakers return early from recess.
If passed, the measure faces a steep climb in the Senate, where Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has come out against similar legislation.