After the federal Commission on Civil Rights released a report in 2018 that found that several states had enacted “newly restrictive statewide voter laws” including closing polling places, limiting early voting and implementing stricter voter ID laws, the Congressional Black Caucus began drafting a bill to stop voter suppression.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after the civil rights icon and congressman, will be introduced late June or July and aims to restore provisions in the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 on grounds that they were obsolete.

The John Lewis Act, like the original Voting Rights Act, creates procedural rules governing voting-rights violations, requiring jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting practices, receive approval from the federal government before making changes to their voting rules. 

As of mid-May, state legislators have enacted at least 22 bills with restrictive voting provisions in 14 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Changes to voting procedures in several states, including Georgia, Arizona and Florida, have already been signed into law. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would help inhibit states from enacting those provisions.

“We have evidence that there is widespread discrimination that is continuing in many states across the country,” said Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who chairs the House Administration subcommittee overseeing federal elections, to CBS News. He added that the voting restrictions enacted in several states across the country had a “devastating impact on democracy.”

Butterfield’s subcommittee is conducting field hearings to compile evidence of discriminatory voting practices that will then be shared with the Judiciary Committee, which will do the markup for the bill. He said in an interview with CBS News that he expected his subcommittee to complete its work and provide “thousands of pages” of evidence by the end of June.

But the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has very little chance of passing in the Senate because it is highly unlikely that nine other Republicans will join all Democrats in supporting the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would give the Justice Department too much power over states. “I think it’s unnecessary.”

Despite this, Democrats stay optimistic.

“I sincerely believe that there are more than 10 Republicans that understand the urgency of updating the Voting Rights Act,” Butterfield said.

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