Senators call on Majority Leader McConnell to hold vote on bipartisan bill that would restore the landmark Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and over 40 colleagues to introduce the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which as a reintroduction of the Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the landmark Voting Rights Act and help preserve the legacy of John Lewis – one of America’s civil rights heroes.

“I was always in awe of Congressman John Lewis — of his persistence, his resilience, his faith that this country could be better, if only we put in the work. He never gave up on justice. He never stopped marching toward freedom,” Klobuchar said. “We must take action to honor his life and legacy by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, for John Lewis, for our democracy, and for all Americans.”

“U.S. Congressman John Lewis was a civil rights hero who dedicated his life to fighting for freedom, equality and basic human rights,” said Sen. Smith. "Among the issues he focused on was voting rights. In 1965 John courageously participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery March to protest discriminatory voter registration; a landmark confrontation of the civil rights movement. I'm glad to help honor his legacy and carry on his life's work with this voting rights bill. Now, Mitch McConnell needs to take it up in the Senate.”

Calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation, Leahy said:  “John called voting ‘the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.’  He was right.  And that’s why we cannot stand idly by while states engage in flagrant suppression schemes to take this tool away from marginalized communities.  The House already passed the companion to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in December. Now we must do our part.  We cannot claim to honor the life of John Lewis if we refuse to carry on his life’s work.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted critical voter protections within the Voting Rights Act, crippling the federal government’s ability to prevent discriminatory changes to state voting laws and procedures.  In the wake of Shelby County, states across the country unleashed a torrent of voter suppression schemes that have systematically disenfranchised minority voters.  These patently discriminatory efforts to restrict access to the ballot box undermine the progress and equality that John Lewis fought hard over the decades to achieve, from his time as a civil rights movement leader to his tenure in Congress. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act, as well as provide the federal government with other critical tools to combat what has become a full-fledged assault on Americans’ right to vote.

In addition to Klobuchar, Smith, and Leahy, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Doug Jones (D-AL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The full text of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can be found HERE.

A summary of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can be found HERE.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, Klobuchar has consistently worked to expand voting access and encourage her colleagues to join her in taking action to ensure voters can cast their ballots safely during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020, introduced on March 18, 2020 by Klobuchar and Senator Ron Wyden (D-WA) and now with 35 cosponsors, would ensure Americans are still able to vote during the pandemic by expanding early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee voting by mail to all states as well as providing funding to train poll workers. Most of the provisions in her legislation have now been included in the HEROES Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in May.

  

On June 11, Klobuchar led her colleagues in a letter to Blunt, Ron Johnson (R-WI) of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in calling for hearings on the threat coronavirus poses for elections.

In May, Klobuchar took to the Senate Floor Klobuchar to ask for unanimous consent to lift restrictions that prevent states from accessing election funding designated to help them safely carry out elections during the pandemic, Republicans objected to Klobuchar’s request

In April, Klobuchar wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on the need to expand mail voting, early voting, and online voter registration. In March, Klobuchar and Wyden wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, highlighting the need “to protect the foundation of our democracy by ensuring that every eligible American can safely cast a ballot in the upcoming elections.”

Before the Senate considered the third relief package, Senators Coons and Klobuchar wrote a letter to Pelosi, McCarthy, McConnell, and Schumer, urging them to include funding to protect the 2020 elections. In April, Klobuchar, Coons, and Wyden published an op-ed in USA TODAY, highlighting the need for the fourth relief package to include money and direction for states to expand vote-by-mail and early voting.

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