Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Cannot Wait

Julia Morris
November 17, 2021

Rep. John Lewis died over a year ago, in the midst of his passing senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle shared kind words about him and honoring his legacy. However, sentiment does not seem to align with congressional action.

On three occasions in the past month, Senate Republicans have blocked discussing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4).

What’s in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act?

  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (VRAA) would restore the full power and protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
  • In 2013, in the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. This provision required states with a history of enacting racist anti-voter laws to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before their state’s election laws could be changed.
  • This bill would restore the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and hopefully expand the list of covered states.
  • This would prevent future discriminatory laws from being allowed on the books — like we are seeing proliferate across the country now.

Suppression tactics to hamper voter participation have become campaign strategy. Gerrymandered districts reflect the needs of the party in power, not the constituents. It is often impossible to know the sources of campaign attacks and fear-mongering half-truths. While these weaknesses were on full display, a coordinated misinformation campaign by the loser’s party is dangerously undermining voters’ trust in elections.

In a faithful democracy, elections, campaigns, and voting are all mechanisms for a collective wisdom to break through which shapes truly representative leadership and empowers accountable decision-makers. This is the open-loop system that, at its best, brings about a more perfect union. Transformational reforms are needed to get us there, and they cannot wait another election cycle.

Protecting Our Democracy and Ensuring Fair Elections

Protecting Our Democracy and Ensuring Fair Elections

Sr. Quincy Howard, OP
October 15, 2021

Last week, I participated in civil disobedience in front of the White House — and spent the night in jail — to draw attention to how critical it is that we pass legislation to make the promise of our democracy real. What is it that makes this moment so important? Watch my conversation with NETWORK Deputy Executive Director Joan Neal to learn more.

This summer, NETWORK justice-seekers raised their voices and took action to strengthen our freedom to vote at rallies, vigils, farmers markets, and even the zoo. Under the banner of “Team Democracy,” hundreds of justice-seekers across the country called on Congress to support legislation that protects the freedom to vote. Meanwhile, thousands of Catholic Sisters signed onto a letter to Senator Schumer telling him not to let minority opposition prevent the Senate passing democracy legislation any longer.

We expect the Senate to vote on the Freedom to Vote Act next week. Will you call your Senators today to tell them that you support this urgently needed legislation?

Dial 888-885-1748. When you call, be sure to introduce yourself and say:

 “I’m asking the Senator to support the passage of S.2747, the Freedom to Vote Act to protect the right to vote and save our democracy.”

Call twice to reach both of your Senators’ offices!

Arizona ‘Ballot Review’ Demonstrates Why We Must Protect the Freedom to Vote

Arizona ‘Ballot Review’ Demonstrates Why We Must Protect the Freedom to Vote

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
September 24, 2021

Today we saw the end of a costly, partisan, and unreliable review of Arizona’s Maricopa Country ballots. Shortly after the 2020 election, this nearly $6 million ballot review was initiated by a small number of partisan extremists over the objections of the Republican-led county leadership. Repercussions and anti-voter initiatives like this one might be the single most insidious tactic to undermine voter confidence growing out of the 2020 election.

According to the Washington Post, “the Florida-based firm that led the review, Cyber Ninjas, had never before been involved in administering an election or recount” and “by May, all of Maricopa’s seven elected officials — including five Republicans — joined to demand the Senate put an end to the review, calling it a ‘con’ and a ‘sham.’”

We know that states often serve as laboratories to innovate and improve our democratic systems. For example, Colorado’s experience with vote-by-mail systems provided tips and best practices for states across the nation conducting elections last winter in the midst of a deadly pandemic.  Sadly, states can also serve as laboratories for sabotage, which is what we’re seeing in Arizona—and other states like Georgia and Wisconsin are watching closely to see if this shameless power-grab will work.

This was a partisan attempt to cast doubt on our elections. Proper election reviews are 1) fully transparent and fully observable; 2) have proper procedures in advance; 3) conducted by bipartisan teams; maintain the integrity of voting machines and ballots; and maintain chain of custody of ballots throughout. It has been widely documented that none of these critical procedures and guidelines are being followed in the sham election reviews.

This is another example of the GOP dividing and distracting the people while undermining trust in our elections. The entire endeavor was birthed and conducted based on the “Big Lie” (that the Arizona and the presidential election was stolen). The operation conducted by Cyber Ninjas has been illegitimate from its original rationale rooted in the lie of voter fraud to its financing by mysterious dark money sources to the contractor, an obscure Florida tech company with hard partisan leanings and no prior elections experience.

Some politicians want to pick and choose which votes to count to decide the results of elections for themselves. The Arizona operation has made clear that our democracy needs additional protections to ensure that trusted local election officials count every vote—that the results of elections are held sacred and protected from partisan manipulation. The Freedom to Vote Act—the newly-introduced bill that would ensure fair representation and make the promise of democracy real for us all—has adds needed protections to the transformative reforms included in S.1 the For the People Act.

Whatever our color, background or zip code, in the United States we value our freedom and the right to vote. The freedom to have a say in decisions that impact our lives—from curbing the pandemic to creating jobs to making health care affordable. But right now, the same faction that spread lies about COVID and election, and fueled the deadly attack on our Capitol are trying to block the Freedom to Vote Act, which U.S. voters support by huge margins across race, place, and political ideology.

NETWORK and our advocates are demanding that our leaders exercise their majority and pass the Freedom To Vote Act. It would set national standards for safely and freely casting our ballots, ensure that trusted local election officials count every vote, and prevent state lawmakers from sabotaging our elections in order to take and hold power. The Freedom to Vote Act is a critical step to ensure that, in our elections, the will of the people prevails.

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Take Action: Call Your Senator Now! Tell Them to Vote YES on S.2747, the Freedom to Vote Act

The Freedom to Vote Act is an important step to protect the sacred right to vote after months of delay and obstruction. The Freedom to Vote Act contains the main pillars of the For the People Act, including protecting the right to vote, ending partisan gerrymandering, and decreasing the power of big moneyed special interests. Call 888-885-1748 to be connected to your Senators. (Call twice to be connected to both Senate offices.)

The Current State of Democracy Reform Legislation in Congress

The Current State of Democracy Reform Legislation in Congress

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
September 14, 2021

Democrats have put voting rights, along with an overhaul of election and campaign finance laws, at the forefront of their agenda upon return in September.  The John Lewis VRAA (H.R.4) would restore the Justice Department’s authority over election law changes in jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices against minorities. The For the People Act (S.1) sets minimum state standards for early voting and voting by mail, and overhauls campaign finance and election laws. Now, a new democracy bill – the Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747) – contains many of the same provisions to protect our elections as the For the People Act, and reflects the feedback the House Rules Committee received from state and local elections officials. Find a summary of the Freedom to Vote Act here. 

Previously, the House has passed both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Schumer promised that voting rights would be a top priority for the chamber after the Senate’s August recess. He reiterated the promise right after they returned. New state laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures and the kick-off of the redistricting process this month makes passing legislation that protects our democracy urgent.

H.R.4 responds to the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision that invalidated the mechanism the Department of Justice (DOJ) used to determine which jurisdictions needed approval before they could change voting laws. Named for the late Representative John R. Lewis, H.R.4 focuses on the DOJ oversight. In addition to restoring its authority over election law changes in some states and jurisdictions, the bill would update criteria used to determine when preclearance is needed for changes. Any state or jurisdictions that had 15 or more violations in the past 25 years would need preclearance. H.R.4 passed the House — for the first time along party lines — in mid-August and will be taken up by the Senate.

These democracy reform efforts also have a subtext: this is a key issue used by progressives to call for an end to the Senate filibuster. The Senate filibuster makes it all but certain that no voting bills can proceed under current Senate rules. Twice this summer the Senate tried to advance the For the People Act but failed to reach the 60-vote threshold.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appears to still have Republicans universally lined up against the measures. Republicans have labeled both House bills an attempted “power grab” by Democrats and have refused to support them on the self-fulfilling rationale that they are too partisan.

There’s no way this legislation or anything like it will get 10 Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Still, our democracy is on the line. It’s now a matter of Democrats finding a strategy to pass it in the Senate with a simple majority.

In a 50-50 Senate, Democrats are under intense pressure to do away with the filibuster. Two Senators, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have thus far resisted that pressure. Prospects for voting bills hinge on whether they will change their views on the filibuster — or whether President Biden will engage to bring them along. The newest bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, was unveiled by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on September 14 and builds on a framework offered earlier this year by Senator Manchin. Its reception by Republican Senators will be pivotal. Stacey Abrams supports the new Freedom to Vote Act, saying that it takes the necessary steps to protect our democracy.

At this point, advocates’ attention is focused toward President Joe Biden, a veteran of the Senate, and Senator Joe Manchin to reform the filibuster.  Both of them have resisted pressure — along with Senator Sinema — to eliminate the filibuster.

Team Democracy: Go for the Gold, Pass the For the People Act

Team Democracy: Go for the Gold, Pass the For the People Act

Meg Olson
August 25, 2021

In the weeks following the Senate’s 50-50 vote which filibustered further consideration of S.1, the For the People Act, NETWORK members, activists, and supporters raised their voices and showed up for our democracy. Under the banner of “Team Democracy,” hundreds of people called on the Senate to find a way to pass the For the People Act to protect the right to vote.

o Brentwood, Rockaway, Hempstead, and Albany NY

In Long Island, New York, Catholic women religious from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood along with Mercy and Dominican Sisters gathered to pray, sing and deliver a letter signed by 3,685 Catholic Sisters nationwide to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office. The letter urged Senator Schumer “not to let minority opposition prevent the Senate passing the For the People Act any longer.”  Read the full text of the “Nuns’ Letter.”

At additional events in Rockaway, Hempstead, and Albany, New York, members of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood and Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet (Albany Province) organized gatherings to rally for the For the People Act with fellow members of their congregations.

o Cleveland, Ohio

The Cleveland NETWORK Advocates Team went to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo where they handed out flyers and stickers in support of the For the People Act. The Sisters of St. Joseph in Cleveland also organized a public witness in support of democracy reform.

o Northern Virginia

In Northern Virginia, NETWORK members showed up to canvass at the Herndon, McLean, Falls Church, Reston, and Alexandria farmers markets. At the markets, they engaged local voters in conversation about the importance of passing democracy reform legislation before the end of the summer.

o Indianapolis, IN

In Indianapolis, Catholic Sisters and other concerned Hoosiers rallied to support federal democracy reform near the Indiana State Capitol Building. The “Carry the Torch of Democracy” rally was cosponsored by Faith in Indiana, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Pax Christi Indianapolis, Indianapolis Urban League, Hoosier Action, Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, Sisters of Providence, Common Cause Indiana, ACLU of Indiana, League of Women Voters Indianapolis, Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, and Our Revolution Indiana. Re-watch the livestream of the rally here.

Following the rally, six Catholic Sisters delivered a copy of NETWORK’s “Nuns’ Letter” signed by 3,685 Catholic Sisters across the country to Senator Mike Braun’s office.

o Monroe, MI

In Monroe, the IHM Sisters and the Stronger Together Huddle held a Vigil for Democracy in front of the IHM Sisters’ Senior Living Community. They also organized a “Relay to the Ballot Box” in downtown Monroe where participants carried symbolic “ballots” and had to get through “hurdles” along the way.  At each hurdle, participants received a “For the People” pass to get through, representing the ways in which the For the People Act would preempt restrictive state-level voting laws. Finally, the participants reached the ballot box near City Hall and the event concluded with music, short speeches, and prayer.

o Philadelphia, PA

On Saturday, August 21, 2021, NETWORK activists organized a Carrying the Torch of Democracy Rally at Independence National Park in Philadelphia, PA. The rally was cosponsored by Common Cause of Pennsylvania, Our Mother of Consolation Parish, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Mercy, Chestnut Hill College, Colonial Area Anti-Racism and Social Equity Alliance (CAARSEA), and Indivisible Philadelphia. Catholic Sisters, local elected officials, and activists spoke about the need to pass S.1 the For the People Act. Re-watch the livestream of the rally here.

View images from all of the Team Democracy events below:

Team Democracy: Go for the Gold, Pass the For the People Act

Catholic Sisters to President Biden and Senator Schumer: Pass S.1!

Catholic Sisters to President Biden and Senator Schumer: Pass S.1!

Meg Olson
July 26, 2021

Today, NETWORK members delivered a letter signed by 3,685 Sisters in support of S.1, the For the People Act, to President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer. The letter urges President Biden and Senator Schumer not to let minority opposition prevent the Senate passing the For the People Act any longer. Click here to tweet about the Nuns’ Letter or share it with your friends on Facebook.

The Sisters’ message: “As Catholic women religious, we see and affirm the dignity of every person. Knowing that all people are made in the image and likeness of God, we cannot tolerate policies or practices that suppress voters’ ability to participate fully in our democracy, especially Black, Brown, and Native American voters.”

Sister Quincy Howard, OP, NETWORK Government Relations Specialist, who helped organize the letter, said, “Sisters feel a real urgency to respond to the rising threat to our democratic institutions. A healthy democracy is our means for creating a better world and therefore this is a moral issue of the utmost importance.”

Sr. Susan Wilcox, CSJ, a NETWORK member and the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood, helped to deliver the letter to Senator Schumer’s district office. She said, “Voting is a right and a responsibility, but voting rights are under attack. Strict voter registration requirements, extreme partisan gerrymandering, voter purges, and long waits times are disruptive and disenfranchising. We need democracy reform now to protect our next election.”

After receiving the letter, Senator Chuck Schumer said: “Republican state legislatures across the country are engaged in the most sweeping voter suppression in 80 years, and I applaud the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood and beyond for their support of American democracy and for S.1, The For The People Act. The Senate vote I held last month, with all 50 Democrats voting in favor, represented the starting bell – not the finish line – in our fight to protect democracy, and as majority leader, I am exploring all options to bolster voting rights and advance democracy-reform legislation for another vote on the Senate floor.”

Amplify the Sisters’ Message, Join Team Democracy

With Congressional redistricting starting soon, now is a critical time to protect our democratic institutions. NETWORK members are organizing local events to raise support for the provisions included in S.1. If you are in one of the cities below, be sure to join your local “Team Democracy” event. (More local events still to be announced!)

  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Flourtown, Pennsylvania
  • Monroe, Michigan

Learn more about these events and R.S.V.P. at networklobby.org/TeamDemocracy.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Highlight Urgent Need for Voting Rights Legislation

Recent Supreme Court Decisions Highlight Urgent Need for Voting Rights Legislation

Allison Baroni
July 14, 2021

On July 1, the Supreme Court released rulings on two highly significant cases: Brnovich v. DNC and Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta. Both decisions (each decided 6-3) were disastrous to efforts to strengthen and protect the integrity of United States elections. This tells us what we already knew: the courts will not save us. Now more than ever, we must demand Congress pass the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Only through such legislative action can we ensure the protection of our democracy — or, rather, build anew the democratic society that the United States has only imagined itself to be.

The right to vote is often presented as sacrosanct, as if voting has been free and fair since the inception of this nation. But we know that at the time of the first presidential election in 1789, only 6% of those living in the United States (i.e., property-owning white men) were able to vote. And, although gains have been made thanks to organizing and advocacy from marginalized communities pushing to expand that 6%, the right to vote is still denied to many today.

Still, through the efforts of activists we have made historic gains for free and fair elections across the centuries. These gains are not linear and have always been accompanied by losses and by the pushback of those seeking to protect an oppressive status quo. In terms of advancing the freedom to vote in the United States, the July 1st Brnovich v. DNC ruling was a travesty for voters who have historically been disenfranchised by our systems and structures.

The court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC reverses a Ninth Court decision that had struck down two Arizonan laws, one of which bans third parties from collecting others’ ballots to turn in, and another requiring precincts to throw out ballots accidentally cast at the wrong location. These laws both disproportionately hurt voters of color, and it was on this basis the Ninth Court struck them down, arguing that they violated Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In reversing this decision, the Supreme Court fundamentally gutted this section of the Voting Rights Act, establishing a precedent for which further laws can be passed without concern for their disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities’ access to the ballot box.

In Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, the Court ruled in favor of major donors to charities and nonprofit groups, striking down a California law that had attempted to mitigate the impact of invisible money on our politics. Instead of supporting efforts to address the growing control of money on our elections and institutions, this decision prioritizes the interests of wealthy donors and dark money under the guise of protecting First Amendment rights. This justification for the decision begins to collapse upon only a little investigation: the California law had only required disclosure to the Attorney General, not the public, already protecting these donors from pushback from public opinion.

Fortunately, the impact of both rulings can be remedied by passing legislation currently before Congress. The For the People Act would ensure a basic standard of access to the ballot for everyone ­— no matter one’s zip code. It would also apply disclosure laws for big donors and dark money and strengthen our federal enforcement of campaign rules. Additionally, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would protect the disenfranchised by preventing states from passing racially discriminatory laws moving forward. We have come too far to move backwards. Passing both of these bills is the only acceptable Congressional response to these decisions from the Supreme Court. Doing so, continuing to build an equitable democracy, is how we bring into existence the world we wish to live in.

Allison Baroni is a rising senior at Villanova University where she studies Peace and Justice & Theology. Allison is a member of the NETWORK Government Relations team this summer.

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

Our Commitment to Equally Sacred Issues

NETWORK Lobby Staff
July 1, 2021

We know that Catholics, and people of all faiths or no faith, are called to be politically active in many policy areas that promote human dignity and the common good. Our elected officials deserve our encouragement as well as our engagement in addressing today’s most pressing moral and political issues.

As Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, caring for immigrants, dismantling racism, and putting an end to immoral levels of economic inequality are equally sacred to care for the unborn.

We, the people, have valuable and critically important authority. This is true in both our democracy and the Church. During the 2020 election, the members of our Spirit-filled network acted to support “Equally Sacred” issues. You told candidates and fellow voters that abortion is not the only issue that matters to Catholics.

Right now, the NETWORK community is lobbying to advance legislation like the For the People Act, the EQUAL Act, the Dream and Promise Act, H.R.40 (Creating a Reparations Commission), and more. These bills reflect a justice-oriented, multi-issue policy agenda.

We at NETWORK will keep Building Anew by promoting policies that work to dismantle systemic racism, cultivate inclusive community, root our economy in solidarity, and transform our politics. By valuing and practicing justice, our unified commitment is strong.

Download your copy of the “Equally Sacred” Scorecard now.

Orange sign that says "It's in the Constitution: Everyone Counts"

State Voting Restrictions Reinforce the Need for the Democracy Reform

State Voting Restrictions Reinforce the Need for the Democracy Reform

Alex Budzynski
June 21, 2021

Right now, a record number of bills that restrict the vote are moving through state legislatures and becoming law. A recent study from the Brennan Center for Justice found that at least 14 states have enacted 22 restrictive voting bills since January. In particular, Florida, Georgia, and Iowa have introduced overarching bills that further constrict already narrow voting laws. Montana and Arkansas have already ratified four bills apiece, and Arizona has proposed two dozen bills which target voting by mail specifically. Several of these laws are being challenged in court.

The Brennan Center study determined that these provisions stem from “the racist voter fraud allegations behind the Big Lie and a desire to prevent future elections from achieving the historic turnout seen in 2020.” Over 300 restrictive bills have been introduced in 48 states, and 61 bills are currently moving through state governments. With voting rights jumping to the top of state legislative agendas, “the United States is on track to far exceed its most recent period of significant voter suppression” by the end of this year.

States are imposing an assortment of the following provisions making it more difficult to vote in person or to cast ballots in the mail:

  • Shortening the timeframe to request and deliver mail ballots
  • Making it harder to remain on absentee voting lists
  • Eliminating or limiting mail ballots to those who do not specifically request them
  • Restricting assistance when returning mail ballots
  • Limiting the number and location of mail ballot drop boxes
  • Imposing stricter signature requirements for mail ballots
  • Tightening voter ID requirements
  • Expanding voter purges
  • Banning snacks and water at in-person polling stations
  • Eliminating same-day registration
  • Reducing the availability of polling locations and hours
  • Limiting early voting days and times

The principles of Catholic Social Justice insist that all people have a right to participate in our shared public life. Voting should be readily accessible, but these laws make it harder to cast a ballot under the guise of election security. In turn, these bills jeopardize the integrity of our democracy and actively disenfranchise voters.

Moreover, these restrictive laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities, creating hurdles for Black and brown voters, disabled people, immigrants, and low-income folks. A 2019 study published in Scientific American found that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited an average 29% longer than voters in White neighborhoods. Now, states with large minority populations, including Florida and Georgia, have introduced provisions which will continue to suppress minority votes due to technicalities and unchecked intimidation techniques. These policies are rooted in and reminiscent of Jim Crow-era poll taxes and literacy tests. They must be undone to ensure all people have access to the polls.

Organizations across the nation are taking notice of these dangerous and undemocratic pieces of legislation. The Black Votes Matter Fund recently announced their “Freedom Ride for Voting Rights,” a series of events from Jackson, Mississippi to Washington D.C. which will advocate against widespread voter suppression. The organization’s goal “is to increase power in our communities. Effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.”

In order to preserve our democracy and uphold the right to vote, we must act. The For the People Act (S.1) is a comprehensive, once-in-a-lifetime bill that protects and expands voting rights, ends partisan gerrymandering, and gets big money out of politics. S.1 would overrule the restrictive laws being passed in states by dictating new, national voting standards that make it easier to vote in person or by mail. NETWORK urges the passage of the For the People Act in the Senate to undo the constricting and oppressive provisions that are being imposed nationwide. The integrity of our democracy is at stake.


Alex Budzynski is a rising senior at Xavier University where he studies communication and public relations. He hails from Fairfax, Virginia, and he is one of the summer volunteers at NETWORK this year.

Both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are needed to Build Our Democracy Anew

Both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are needed to Build Our Democracy Anew

Two critical bills, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, are being considered in Congress to transform our politics and safeguard our democracy. These bills have key similarities and differences, but both are essential in ridding our democracy of systemic racism and exclusion and building a new democracy that honors both the dignity of each individual and the value of community.

What is The For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) and what does it do?

  • The For the People Act is a once-in-a-generation bill that reimagines American democracy into one that works for the people. It protects the freedom to vote, ends partisan gerrymandering, gets big money out of politics, and strengthens government ethics and accountability.
  • From a voting rights perspective, it creates a national floor of accessibility to the ballot box that doesn’t currently exist, making same-day voter registration, no-excuse vote by mail, and at least two weeks of early voting the law of the land no matter where a voter lives. Many of the challenges of voting during COVID, for example, would be addressed through For the People Act.
  • And, in terms of the voter suppression laws currently moving in the states, S.1 would override many of them by requiring all states to meet this baseline of accessibility.

What is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4) and what does it do?

  • The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (VRAA) would restore the full power and protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
  • In 2013, in the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act. This provision required states with a history of enacting racist anti-voter laws to get pre-clearance from the Department of Justice before their state’s election laws could be changed.
  • This bill would restore the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act and hopefully expand the list of covered states.
  • This would prevent future discriminatory laws from being allowed on the books — like we are seeing proliferate across the country now.

How they work together

  • These bills are complementary and are both sides of the same coin — so if you hear folks talking about how we need to pick one or the other — that is a false choice and needs to be called out as such.
  • We should not be picking one — both of these bills are wildly popular — and both are 100% necessary to protect the freedom to vote. They accomplish different things.
  • If we’re thinking of this as a battle for voting rights the For the People Act can be seen as a sword—an assertion of rights and reclaiming the power of the people. The VRAA can be thought of as the shield, our defense against racist, discriminatory voting laws.

Different Bills on Different Timelines: Why aren’t the bills aren’t moving together or combined?

This is because of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — it requires a legislative record of field hearings on voter discrimination to protect it from a potential legal challenge in the future. So that means it is moving at a somewhat slower pace than the For the People Act, and it hasn’t yet been introduced in 2021 because there is a lot to incorporate into the record from the 2020 election.

The For the People Act is ready to go and is on an aggressive timeline: it passed the House in March and we need it to be signed into law by the end of the summer. It will impact redistricting and it could positive impact voting laws for the 2022 election, but its reforms need time to take effect, so it is critical this bill moves in the next couple of months

We need to move forward with passage of S.1 now and take up JLVRAA as the next immediate step in our democracy agenda. Think of American democracy as a sick patient.  The For the People Act is the treatment the patient needs to survive, H.R.4 is the vaccine to ensure it doesn’t get sick again. If we want to nullify the laws that have passed in states or those that will pass in the coming months, we need the For the People Act to pass.  The voting rights provisions of H.R.1 came straight from the late John Lewis’s Voter Empowerment Act, which he originally introduced in 2012 and reintroduced every session since.