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Landmark Voting Rights Bill Passes House

Public Plaque on Voting Rights Act - Selma - Alabama
Public Plaque on Voting Rights Act - Selma - Alabama. (Photo: Adam Jones)

“Voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue, and the fact that in this amendment they would try to politicize voting rights – we should all, ALL, be appalled by that.”

In a highly partisan vote, 227 Democrats and one Republican legislator in the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4 or the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 on Friday. H.R. 4 now faces a much stiffer challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate where majority leader Mitch McConnell previously refused to hold a vote on the bill while it was attached to H.R. 1 or the For the People Act – a Democrat introduced bill that sought to reduce dark money in politics, create public financing of elections and strengthen ethics rules.

What is HR 4?

H.R. 4, introduced by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was written in direct response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act by striking down the preclearance provision in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Prior to the court’s decision, any state with a history of racial discrimination was required to “preclear” or prove that any new voting laws, such as requiring voter ID, would not discriminate based on race.

According to the ACLU, the preclearance provision was one of the Voting Rights Act’s strongest features because it preempted the passing of discriminatory voter legislation.

“Since its enactment in 1965, Section 5 has had a massive impact in dismantling voting discrimination — the biggest of any congressional action — successfully blocking more than 1,000 instances of discriminatory election rules advanced by state and local officials,” said the ACLU in a press release.

However, Shelby County invalidated the formula used for determining which locations were subject to the preclearance requirement. The court, in its majority opinion, urged Congress to adopt a new formula for determining what locations were subject to the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision.

H.R. 4 did just that, establishing a new formula for determining what locations were subject to preclearance:

“A state and all of its political subdivisions shall be subject to preclearance of voting practice changes for a 10-year period if (1) 15 or more voting rights violations occurred in the state during the previous 25 years; or (2) 10 or more violations occurred during the previous 25 years, at least one of which was committed by the state itself. A political subdivision as a separate unit shall also be subject to preclearance for a 10-year period if three or more voting rights violations occurred there during the previous 25 years,” says the bill.

In addition to the revised preclearance formula, H.R. 4 establishes a new preliminary injunction standard so that any potentially discriminatory voting changes would be unenforceable until a lawsuit alleging discrimination is settled. The act also requires locations to notify the public of any voting changes prior to elections and would give the Department of Justice the authority to send observers to monitor elections.

News of the passing of H.R. 4 was celebrated widely on Twitter, but restoring the 1965 Voting Rights Act back to its pre-Shelby County strength still has a tough journey ahead through the Senate:

Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.


  1. Pingback: Landmark Voting Rights Bill Passes House – Ex Offenders Vote
  2. Larry N Stout December 7, 2019

    What good is a vote when the ballots list only plutocratic puppets?

  3. Larry N Stout December 7, 2019

    And what good is a vote when the voter is an utter ignoramus?


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