Yesterday the House narrowly passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR4) along party lines. We applaud the leadership to bring this bill forward, and those who have worked tirelessly to present and catalog hours of testimony and data presented to define the parameters of the bill so that it accurately meets our current needs to protect our democracy.
Since the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was first established in 1965 it has been supported across party lines and renewed five times with broad bipartisan support, most recently 15 years ago by a 396 - 33 vote in the House. The narrow passage of HR4 is a direct result of the stark division across our country, and the great challenge facing our democracy. Are we a nation that will protect the right to vote at all costs, even if it challenges the power and security of lawmakers?
It is imperative that our nation come together again as a democracy, one that sees value in every person’s vote and will not stand for laws that disproportionately create barriers to access to the ballot box for people based on their race, class, or disability. The Senate has an opportunity to lead, and heal divisions across our country by honoring the legacy and effectiveness of the VRA by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
This year alone, over 400 bills have been introduced across the states to make it harder for people to vote. 30 of those bills have been signed into law - and we are already seeing the effects, like in DeKalb County, GA, where nearly 30,000 people no longer have qualifying ID to vote in the wake of Georgia’s SB202. HR4 creates an enforcement mechanism for the VRA and provides oversight to determine if and when laws like Georgia’s SB202 discriminate against citizens based on their race.
Since the loss of pre-clearance in 2013 we have systematically seen the marginalization of voters based on race without an enforcement mechanism for the VRA. In states originally covered by the VRA, the racial turnout gap grew by 9.2 to 20.9% without pre-clearance to enforce the law. The data is clear, we need HR4 and the VRA to protect the right to vote.
State lawmakers must also be held accountable for their work to make it harder to vote, however, in the short term HR4 is needed to protect fair, accessible, and trustworthy elections for all Americans so that democracy can work.
We call on the Senate to act, and on all Americans to raise their voices in support of democracy by letting lawmakers know you will not stand for a democracy that is standing on laws that are designed to limit the power of voters based on their race.
- Tappan Vickery, Director of Voter Engagement at HeadCount
HeadCount is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that promotes participation in democracy through music, culture, and digital media. Since 2004 the organization has registered over one million voters and worked with a long list of musicians and partners including Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Dave Matthews Band, JAY-Z, Beyoncé, March for Our Lives, RuPaul’s DragCon, MTV, and Dead & Company. With 40,000 volunteers, street teams in most major U.S. cities, and a presence at more than 1,000 events each year, HeadCount ranks as one of the most active grassroots civic participation organizations in the United States. HeadCount Founder/Executive Director Andy Bernstein and Chairman Peter Shapiro were recently featured in Billboard’s inaugural ‘Change Agents’ issue for the organization’s pro-democracy mission during 2020’s unprecedented election season. For more information visit, HeadCount.org.