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- Yesterday, a court in Missouri ruled that only the Attorney General of the United States — not individual victims of discrimination or even longstanding civil rights groups — can sue states or localities that implement racially biased voting procedures.
- The ruling yet again takes a hatchet to the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- It also flies in the face of decades of clearly established legal precedent, not to mention plain old common sense.
- And it will — not could, will — make racist voting restrictions more likely to stand.
This matter will almost certainly be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court — which has already undermined the Voting Rights Act, including in its notoriously misguided Shelby County ruling a decade ago.
We MUST keep the pressure on Congress to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
This critical legislation is named in honor of the late Rep. John Lewis.
On March 7, 1965 — in what is known as Bloody Sunday — Lewis was savagely beaten by racist state troopers as he led peaceful civil rights activists in a historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The Voting Rights Act was passed just five months later.
A few years ago, I had the honor to be at the House of Representatives when John Lewis spoke about legislation to protect voting rights:
“You have heard me say on occasion that the right to vote is precious — almost sacred. In a democratic society, it is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. In my heart of hearts, I believe we have a moral responsibility to restore access for all citizens, who desire to participate in the democratic process. Many people marched and protested for the right to vote. Some gave a little blood, and others gave their very lives.”
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would fortify the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 — including by specifically empowering voters to sue states or localities that implement discriminatory voting rules.
The fundamental right to vote is under assault. We call on Congress to protect and expand voting rights — and to fulfill its role in our government’s system of checks and balances — by passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
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- Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen