House passes John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act; SWFL reps oppose

The late Rep. John R. Lewis.

The US House of Representatives is back in session and on Tuesday, Aug. 24, it passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (House Resolution (HR) 4) by a vote of 219 to 212.

All of Southwest Florida’s representatives—Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—voted against it.

According to the congressional summary: “This bill establishes new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain preclearance before changes to voting practices may take effect. Preclearance is the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the US District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights.”

In her weekly press conference, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said the bill, named for the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights activist and icon, was necessary in light of widespread voter suppression efforts, especially those directed against minority voters.

“There are probably 20 laws – bills that had become law, that had been enacted, hundreds that had been introduced to suppress the vote,” she said. “Why?  And then you just have to wonder: Why would they not want to make it easier for people to vote?  Just because they want to suppress the vote among people of color, they are also suppressing the vote for everyone else by their, again, suppression of number of polling places, hours that are there, the list goes on and on.”

Rep. Byron Donalds

Donalds argued that HR 4 was a retread of the For the People Act of 2021 (HR 1), which passed the House in March. That bill, which he opposed, sought to ensure voting rights by expanding voter registration, guaranteeing voter access and limiting removing voters from rolls, all in response to state laws doing the opposite. It currently sits in the Senate awaiting action, which is unlikely.

“HR. 4 is HR. 1 (2.0), don’t be fooled,” Donalds tweeted on Tuesday. He argued that it would cancel “common-sense” voter identification requirements, updating of voter rolls, allow electioneering, would federalize election laws and would give the Department of Justice the power to veto state election laws.

“HR. 4 isn’t for the people,” he tweeted.

HR 4 now goes to the Senate for action.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

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