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ICYMI from October: Senator Murray, Colleagues Reintroduce John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – MORE HERE 

Senator Murray: “To the people of Washington state and the country—my Democratic colleagues and I are committed and determined to pass strong voting rights legislation”

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S FLOOR SPEECH HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor today in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act ahead of a Senate vote to move to debate on the bill. Republicans blocked consideration of the bill for debate by a 50-49 vote, with 1 Republican voting with Democrats. This legislation would restore the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, combat minority voter suppression, and help preserve the legacy of John Lewis—one of America’s greatest civil rights heroes. During the speech, Senator Murray called for Democrats to use every available tool—including an exemption to the filibuster—in order to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores the power of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, legislation that has historically had strong bipartisan support.

“As Congressman Lewis said, ‘Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society.’ To the people of Washington state and the country—my Democratic colleagues and I are committed and determined to pass strong voting rights legislation,” Senator Patty Murray said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to pass voting rights—if that means an exemption to the filibuster—then let’s do it. This can’t wait. Passing strong federal voting rights protections into law will be the most important work this Congress does, and we can’t let Senate procedure stop us from protecting the right to vote in this country.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted critical voter protections within the Voting Rights Act, crippling the federal government’s ability to prevent discriminatory changes to state voting laws and procedures. In the wake of Shelby County, states across the country have responded with strict voter ID laws and other voter suppression schemes that have systematically disenfranchised minority voters. These discriminatory efforts to restrict access to the ballot box undermine the progress and equality that John Lewis fought hard over the decades to achieve, from his time as a civil rights movement leader to his tenure in Congress.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as provide the federal government with new critical tools to combat voter suppression throughout the states. Among other efforts to strengthen voter access and election integrity, this bill:

  • Restores and updates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is the permanent nationwide prohibition against race-based discrimination in voting.
  • Assert that a private right of action exists under the Voting Rights Act.
  • Provides protections to election workers and polling places.
  • Includes the Native American Voting Rights Act to expand access to the ballot box for those living on Tribal lands.
  • Includes penalties for voting rights violations.
  • Attempts to remedy U.S. Supreme Court’s Brnovich v. DNC Decision, which significantly weakened Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The bill would also update the Voting Rights Act formula used to determine which states and localities might need extra oversight of voting due to a pattern of discrimination. It would ensure that last-minute changes to polling locations or other election details do not adversely affect voters by requiring officials to publicly announce all voting changes at least 180 days before an election. It would also expand the government’s authority to send federal observers to any jurisdiction where there may be a substantial risk of discrimination at the polls on election day or during an early voting period.

Senator Murray has been a long-time advocate of improving voting access and election security to make sure every eligible American has the ability to vote. An original cosponsor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, Senator Murray helped reintroduce the bill in October of this year. Following House passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act earlier this summer, Senator Murray called for quick action using all legislative tools available to pass the bill. Senator Murray is also determined to make sure the Senate can act on voting rights, and has consistently stated that federal voting rights protections are a top priority for her, telling KUOW earlier this summer that the For the People Act was, “the most important” bill the Senate would vote on this Congress. In March, Murray also announced her support for an exemption to the filibuster on voting rights protections, telling the Spokesman-Review, “the For the People Act is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy and I will consider every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure it can be signed into law.”

Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

“Thank you M. President.

“I rise today because Democrats aren’t done.

“Despite some of my Republican colleagues repeatedly preventing us from even debating voting rights legislation—most recently the Freedom to Vote Act—we’re not done fighting to ensure every person in this country has equal and fair access to the ballot.

“We’re not done, because the cause we are fighting for here today is a just one and Americans want to see us protect the right to vote.

“And the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act does just that.

“This bill would restore and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act—which is one of the most important bills in our nation’s history.

“It was a bipartisan rejection of racist attempts by states to deny the ballot to people of color.

“And it came after years of dedicated work by activists and lawmakers—including the late, honorable Congressman Lewis—who were and are intent on ensuring our country followed through on our nation’s most fundamental promise to its citizens.

“The promise that every United States citizen has an equal voice in our elections.

“For most of the decades following its passage, the provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act have enjoyed bipartisan support.

“But in recent years, the power and protections of this crucial law have been gutted.

“And far-right legislators in states across the country are passing laws that make it harder for communities of color to vote, all based on baseless claims about voter fraud and rigged elections.

“It’s shameful, it’s anti-democratic, and it should be bigger than partisan politics.

“We should be able to come together on a bipartisan basis to pass a federal prohibition on laws that restrict the right to vote based on race.

“Protecting each citizen’s right to have a voice in our democracy should be as noncontroversial as naming post offices.

“Because the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and attempts to weaken it weaken the foundation we all depend on.

“Those are the stakes here. The foundation and future of our democracy.

“Without equal access to the ballot, how will people tell us what they want to see on the most challenging questions of our time?

“Like climate, health care, education, and so much more.

“So even if many of my Republican colleagues disagree with me about the provisions included in this bill, they should at least let us move forward with debate.

“If they have good-faith ideas about how to protect every Americans’ voice in our democracy, we are all ears.

“But we will need more than a few Republicans in order to be able to have that debate on the floor and offer amendments.

“And if we can’t get there, I think we need to be really clear.

“As Congressman Lewis said, ‘Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society.’

“To the people of Washington state and the country—my Democratic colleagues and I are committed and determined to pass strong voting rights legislation.

“And we can’t keep bringing these bills to the floor only to let Republican block even a debate.

“We need to use every legislative tool needed to get the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to President Biden’s desk.

“Whatever we’ve got to do to pass voting rights—if that means an exemption to the filibuster—then let’s do it.

“This can’t wait. Passing strong federal voting rights protections into law will be the most important work this Congress does.

“We can’t let Senate procedure stop us from protecting the right to vote in this country.

“Let’s make sure our democracy stays a democracy and let’s pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—whatever it takes." 

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