The House passed legislation Friday restoring protections of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that were undone when the Supreme Court struck down federal oversight of elections in states with a history of discriminating against minority communities.
The bill passed 228 to 187, with unanimous Democratic support and the vote of one Republican — Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.).
“No longer will cynical politicians and states with dark histories of discrimination have the green light to freely continue their systemic suppression campaign,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor.
The bill faces long odds of becoming law, with opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House threatening a veto by President Trump.
Half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to protect the rights of all Americans to vote, the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturned some of those protections, asserting that they were no longer needed.
The bill would allow federal oversight for state and local jurisdictions that enact stricter voters laws that disproportionately suppress the vote in communities of color.
In her speech on the House floor, Pelosi said at least 23 states have enacted “voter suppression laws, including voter purges, strict ID requirements, poll closures, voter intimidation, denying millions their voice by their vote” since the Supreme Court ruling.
“This bill restores the Voting Rights Act’s strength to combat the clear resurgence of voter discrimination unleashed by Shelby by updating the data determining which states and practices are covered by the law,” she said.
The sponsor of the bill was Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) who represents Selma, where civil rights protesters, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), were beaten when crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.
“I dare say that Selma is still now. Since the Shelby decision, 25 states have put in stricter voter restriction laws. Selma is still now because since the Shelby decision, 12 states have laws making it harder for citizens to register and stay registered,” Sewell said on the House floor.
Lewis presided over the vote and announced the measure’s passage to applause from his Democratic colleagues.