WASHINGTON — Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators have joined 45 other Democrats in introducing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021.
Both the offices of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock issued statements after the legislation, named after the legendary Georgia congressman and civil rights activist, was introduced.
The legislation is designed to restore some protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that, Ossoff said, were gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent states with a history of discrimination — like Georgia — from enacting laws that discriminate against minorities.
The bill also includes Ossoff’s Election Worker and Polling Place Protection Act, aimed at protecting election workers and their families from threats of harm and safeguard election infrastructure.
The 1965 act required jurisdictions with a history of voting rights violations to get approval — or “preclearance” — from the Justice Department before making changes to local voting laws. The Supreme Court threw out that portion of the law in 2013 in the Shelby v Holder case.
The justices asked Congress to update the coverage formula used to determine which states are subject to preclearance, Warnock said. However, Congress has been unwilling to act, he said.
“Preclearance has been allowed to atrophy, and we’ve seen the results not only in Georgia but in Texas and Arizona and Pennsylvania, all across our country,” he said, referring to a wave of state election law changes critics say amount to voter suppression.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on the legislation on Wednesday, with Ossoff chairing one of the witness panels.