Photo by Obi Onyeador via Unsplash

WASHINGTON D.C. – All 50 Senate Republicans voted to block ‘For The People,’ a bill that would have countered the growing voting restrictions, via filibuster on June 22.

The bill aimed “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy, and for other purposes.” 

On June 21, the Republican Senate joined together to prevent the opening of debate on voting rights legislation, preventing Democrats from reaching the 60 vote minimum to begin talks. 

This sparked another wave of outrage against the filibuster. 

Now, Democrats are moving to push the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, whose purpose statement states its goal is “to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act, and for other purposes.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to enforce the 15th Amendment in the Constitution, the right for all citizens to vote without discriminatory barriers based on race, sex or status of servitude.  

The extension of the right to vote being granted to former slaves was followed by discriminatory practices, most notably in the South, to prevent Black citizens from voting. Literacy tests, voter applications and intimidation tactics were some of the barriers that prevented a large percentage of Americans from voting. 

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act seeks to amend the Voting Rights Act, the part that had already been amended in 2013. Originally, Section 4 and 5 required states that had a history of racial discrimination to seek ‘pre-clearance’ from the federal court before changing their voting and election procedures. This was intended to prevent any discriminatory barriers from being implemented after the passing of the Voting Rights Act. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Shelby County, which made election procedure changes without clearing it with the federal government first. Shelby County v. Holder ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The burdens imposed by the rules outlined in Section 4 were unnecessary, seeing the amount of anti-racial change that had happened in the past 50 years. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously wrote a dissent (pg. 32-37) on the matter, saying: 

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” 

She went on to say that nowhere near enough change had transpired to protect minorities from discrimination, and the invalidation of Sec. 4 made it near impossible for the government to uphold Sec. 5.

Although the ‘For The People’ Act is no more, Democrats’ plan to push for voting rights legislation is not over.

Others believe the For The People bill was blocked to protect the best interests of the nation. Sen. John Barrasso told Fox News, “The Democrats’ election takeover bill was defeated yesterday for all the right reasons. It was designed to make it easier for Democrats to cheat so that they would never lose an election again.”

Reasons some opposed the passing of the bill include the elimination of voter IDs, something 80% of Americans support according to a 2016 Gallup poll.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is not yet a bill. Committee hearings are in the works for revisions before the bill enters the House.

Written ByCynthia Zelaya

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