Four years after the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back provisions of Voting Rights Act, Alabama 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and a handful of her House colleagues congregated outside of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday for a Speak Out to introduce legislation to restore protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination.
According to Sewell, H.R. 2978: the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) addresses a wave of voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and other voter suppression tactics enacted at the state level.
“Today, I’m introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act because I believe that the right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy,” said Sewell. “As state after state create new barriers to the polls, our work to prevent discrimination and protect the rights of all voters has taken on a new urgency. The time to restore the vote is now.”
Sewell continued, “On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I urge my colleagues to recommit ourselves to restoring the promise of voter equality. We cannot silence any voices in our electorate. Our nation will cease to be a democracy if we limit access to voting.”
The VRAA seeks to restore full protections to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If passed, 13 states nationwide would be subject to federal election oversight due to a recent history of voter discrimination. It would also require states with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the Department of Justice before making any changes to their electoral laws.
“We know that we stand on the shoulders of amazing people. We know that we have the rights and freedoms that we enjoy because of other’s sacrifice. And we know that freedom is not free. So it’s important that we amplify our voices,” Sewell added at the Speak Out. “I’m asking millennials to use snapchat and all of the other social media that you have to amplify your voices to get your generation involved. So here’s the thing, your vote is your vote. And if you allow your vote to be suppressed, you’re allowing your voice to be suppressed.”
Reps. John Lewis, Judy Chu, Michelle Lujan Grisham, James Clyburn, Joseph Crowley, Sen. Patrick Leahy, NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary Shelton, The Leadership Conference President Vanita Gupta, ACLU Political Director Faiz Shakir, and AAJC Director of Census and Voting Programs Terry Ao Minnis were also in attendance.
Watch Sewell’s live-stream of the event below: