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We “Filled the Room” to Support the Voting Rights Act on Capitol Hill

Nancy Pelosi stands at a podium with a group of people behind her while she talks about the Voting Rights Advancement Act
News & Analysis

On February 26, People For the American Way joined a coalition of activists who “filled the room” to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), a bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. Some of the organizations who joined us included the Brennan Center, MoveOn, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

After the Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in the 5-4 Shelby County ruling in 2013, voters in cities and states that were once protected by advance federal oversight began facing even more laws that made it harder to vote—laws that disproportionately affected people of color. The Voting Rights Advancement Act has been introduced to restore protections against this kind of discrimination and ensure that every American is able to exercise their fundamental right to participate in our elections.

The press conference started with speeches from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both stressing that voting rights are sacred and that Congress has not lived up to its obligations to protect every American’s fundamental right to vote. Rep. Sewell discussed the recent election in Georgia, where Brian Kemp served as Secretary of State while running for governor, as an example of how corruption has infected our voting system.

Additional speakers included Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., who spoke about how voting rights should be a bipartisan issue, stressing that if any eligible voter has been denied a chance to cast a ballot, lawmakers have already failed in protecting our democracy. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., gave an emotional speech about how he fought for civil rights with figures like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how easy America can backslide if we are not vigilant about protecting the progress we’ve made in recent history. Finally, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., noted that this bill is necessary because America has a long history of suppressing votes and that our democracy is still fragile today.