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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 24, 2021

Bills in Congress align with Biden’s campaign promise on Voting Rights Act

When Democrats took the White House and control of Congress, they increased their chances of delivering on promised legislation to expand and protect voting rights.

In March, the House passed H.R. 1, known as the For the People Act, which combines proposals for voter registration, absentee voting, in-person voting, campaign finance and ethics related to federal elections. The bill also includes a provision reaffirming Congress' commitment to restoring provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

President Joe Biden, who campaigned on a promise to update the Voting Rights Act, called H.R. 1 "landmark legislation" that will protect the right to vote and strengthen democracy. Democrats formally introduced the bill in the Senate in March, but it's unlikely it can pick up enough Republican support to get past a filibuster. The Democrats' effort in Congress counters a tide of Republican-backed bills in state legislatures that would restrict voting access.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act barred voting restrictions based on race and required certain jurisdictions that had history of discrimination to preclear any proposed changes in their voting procedures with the federal government. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court voided the preclearance requirement. But a bill backed by Biden, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would restore it under a new process. The bill — named for the former Georgia congressman, civil rights leader and voting-rights champion who died in 2020 — stalled in the Senate in 2020, but Democrats are expected to reintroduce it.

"It's an effort to address what (the Supreme Court) held was an unconstitutional defect in the old provision," Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, told PolitiFact.

Separately, Biden signed an order March 7 to promote voting access. The order directs federal agencies to submit plans for promoting voter registration and participation, and aims to expand ballot access for certain groups including military and overseas voters. 

Biden's promise to update the Voting Rights Act will face hurdles in the Senate, but for now we rate this promise In the Works. 

RELATED: Fact-checking misleading attacks on the HR 1 voting rights bill

Our Sources

White House, Statement by President Joe Biden on the House of Representatives Passage of H.R. 1, March 4, 2021

White House, Fact Sheet: President Biden to Sign Executive Order to Promote Voting Access, March 7, 2021

Congress.gov, H.R.4 - Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, How to Restore and Strengthen the Voting Rights Act, Jan. 28, 2021

New York Times, The Brewing Voting Rights Clash, March 2, 2021

Email interview, Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, March 12, 2021

Email interview, Danielle Lang, Campaign Legal Center co-director of voting rights and redistricting, March 12, 2021

Email interview, Chris Meagher, White House spokesperson, March 17, 2021

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