Rep. Summer Lee, Assistant Leader Joe Neguse, and Senator Ossoff Lead 33 Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Create First-Ever Statutory Right to Vote in Federal Elections on 11th Anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder Decision

The Right to Vote Act allows Americans to enforce that right by challenging in court any policy that unduly restricts ballot access. States attempting to restrict voting access would have to meet a high bar to justify any policy that makes it harder for U.S. citizens to participate in federal elections. 

Washington, DC

Vaibhav Vijay, Vaibhav.Vijay@mail.house.gov 

Kyla Gill, Kyla.Gill@mail.house.gov 

Rep. Summer Lee, Assistant Leader Joe Neguse, and Senator Ossoff Lead 33 Colleagues in Introducing Bill to Create First-Ever Statutory Right to Vote in Federal Elections on 11th Anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder Decision

The Right to Vote Act allows Americans to enforce that right by challenging in court any policy that unduly restricts ballot access. States attempting to restrict voting access would have to meet a high bar to justify any policy that makes it harder for U.S. citizens to participate in federal elections. 

(Washington, DC) –  Today, Congresswoman Summer Lee (PA-12), Assistant Leader Joe Neguse (CO-02), and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) led eight colleagues in the Senate and 25 colleagues in the House of Representatives in introducing the Right to Vote Act. As we now mark 11 years since the Shelby County v. Holder decision, which opened the door for states and other jurisdictions to pass onerous voting restrictions that disproportionately harm voters of color, this bill would establish the first-ever affirmative federal voting rights guarantee, ensuring every citizen may exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Senator Ossoff originally introduced the bill in the Senate in March. This bill is also a part of the Freedom to Vote Act.

The full list of cosponsors includes: 

Senators: Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Laphonza Butler (D-CA); and 

Representatives. Norton (DC-AL), Deluzio (PA-17), Velázquez (NY-07), Krishnamoorthi (IL-8), Mullin (CA-15), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jackson Lee (TX-18), Peters (CA-50), Tlaib (MI-12), Thanedar (MI-13), Espaillat (NY-13), Frost (FL-10), Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Porter (CA-47), Ramirez (IL-03), Evans (PA-03), Pressley (MA-07), Garcia (IL-04), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Swalwell (CA-14), Schakowsky (IL-09), Stansbury (NM-01), Salinas (OR-06). 

“When I was growing up, I learned that my ancestors and our elders put their bodies on the line for us to have the right to vote. But it’s an incomplete statement. Our right to vote is under constant attack, and we deserve to have the challenge when that right is infringed upon.” said Rep. Summer Lee (PA-12). “Ever since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we’ve seen states across the country pass racist voting laws to carve us out of our collective democracy. We can start by ensuring any attempt to keep us from participating in our right to vote in federal elections must be challenged in court and ended to preserve the fundamental values our country was founded upon.”

“The Right to Vote Act will for the first time enshrine the right to vote in Federal statute and allow U.S. citizens to challenge in court policies that make it harder for them to participate in elections,” Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) said.

“The right to vote is sacrosanct — and generations of brave, patriotic Americans have made great sacrifices to safeguard it,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Joe Neguse.

“Through the introduction of her bill, the Right to Vote Act, Congresswoman Summer Lee is working to defend Americans’ fundamental right to vote — and I look forward to working alongside her to get this bill signed into law.”

“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law enthusiastically supports the Right to Vote Act, which will ensure that courts give full and fair consideration to claims that states and other jurisdictions have unnecessarily placed burdens on the right to vote. Because that right is preservative of all other rights, these protections are needed,” said Ezra Rosenberg, Co-Director, Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“Americans of all political parties agree that our government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. We cannot achieve that ideal until every citizen has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” said Trevor Potter, president of the nonpartisan

Campaign Legal Center and a Republican former chairman of the Federal Election

Commission. “Legislators must come together to pass the Right to Vote Act to protect Americans’ freedom to vote.” 

The Right to Vote Act is also endorsed by partners in the fight to preserve our democracy, including Protect Democracy, Fair Fight Action, Campaign Legal Center, and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

FULL BILL TEXT

Background: 

In recent years, Republican-led legislatures across the country have enacted numerous voter suppression laws that have made it increasingly more difficult for citizens to cast their ballots. These restrictions disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including people of color, young voters, people with disabilities, and those with low incomes.  

With nearly two-thirds of all U.S. states having passed some type of voting restriction in recent years, it is clear Congress must ask swiftly to safeguard every citizen’s ability to participate in our democracy. The Right to Vote Act would protect American citizens’ fundamental right to vote by establishing a first-ever statutory right to vote in federal elections — protecting U.S. citizens from laws that make it harder to cast a ballot. The bill declares that every citizen of legal voting age shall have the right to vote in federal elections that is free from any burden on the time, place, or manner of voting. Furthermore, the Right to Vote Act allows Americans to enforce that right by challenging in court any policy that unduly restricts ballot access. States attempting to restrict voting access would have to meet a high bar to justify any policy that makes it harder for U.S. citizens to participate in federal elections. 

Key Provisions of the Right to Vote Act:

  • Establishes the first-ever affirmative federal voting rights guarantee, ensuring every citizen may exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot.
  • Prohibits state and local governments from restricting voting access in federal elections, preventing governments from enacting laws that diminish or substantially impair the ability to vote.
  • Authorizes a civil right of action to enforce the right to vote, empowering Americans to challenge in court any policy that unduly restricts ballot access. 
  • Expedites judicial review, ensuring expedient action to protect citizens’ voting rights. 

Since taking office in January 2023, Lee, who serves on the House Oversight Committee and Space, Science and Technology Committee, has delivered historic levels of federal investment totaling over $1.85 Billion brought back to Western PA, including over $580 million for infrastructure, over $110 million for affordable transit, over $500 million to keep clean energy manufacturing at home in Pennsylvania, and over $55 million on clean energy efforts in and around schools to help keep our kids and communities safe. These investments will help

improve Western Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and transit, ensure cleaner air and drinking water, lower housing costs, fund research institutions, fuel clean manufacturing, fund STEM innovation and entrepreneurship, boost workforce development, and create thousands of good paying union jobs.  Lee and her team have also delivered casework and constituent services to over 2,300 constituents with issues ranging from helping our seniors and disabled community access Medicare and social security to helping folks secure housing and helping families with immigration support and passports.

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