The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly condemned the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
The federal voting rights legislation died on the U.S. Senate floor on January 20, 2022 after Democrats failed to persuade Republicans, and two members of their own caucus, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), to change filibuster rules in order to bring the bill forward for consideration.
The Senate’s failure to enact this vital legislation leaves the touchstone of our democracy – free, fair, and accessible elections – vulnerable to ongoing assault not only from violent extremists and conspiracy theorists but also by pernicious state laws designed to suppress the vote and interfere in the fair administration of elections.
“At a time when decades of protections against racial discrimination in elections have been eroded and states across the country are enacting anti-voter laws designed to sabotage elections and silence voters’ voices, this legislation is urgently needed to protect our democracy,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “That half of the U.S. Senate has no problem imposing obstacles that make it more difficult for Americans to vote marks a dark moment in American history.”
The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act is essential to undoing some of the harm caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brnovich v. DNC. In that 6-3 decision last year, the court said that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did not bar Arizona lawmakers from limiting voters’ access to the ballot, even though the Arizona legislation disproportionately affected Black and brown voters, Native American voters, students, and low-income voters. This legislation would also provide protections against harmful anti-voter laws being enacted in states across the country.
ADL has worked for decades to ensure that all Americans have a voice in our democracy, opposing efforts to restrict the freedom to vote and establish deliberate barriers to voting such as photo ID laws, partisan and racial gerrymandering, efforts to limit vote-by-mail and ballot drop boxes, but it is not the only civil rights group calling for action.
“Although the Senate failed to advance the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Senators in support of federal voting rights legislation cannot give up,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU federal policy director. “This legislation would continue the work of the Voting Rights Act in rooting out voting barriers that discriminate against voters of color. Throughout history, support for the Voting Rights Act has been bipartisan and decisive.”
“Senate leaders have to figure out how to get this bill passed. It is not okay to have a majority of the Senate supporting voting rights, but then have archaic rules used to block it from becoming law,” said Anders. “Given the attacks on our democracy in the last year and upcoming elections in November, this bill must be on President Biden’s desk. The Senate must continue the push to remove any and all obstacles preventing this bill from being signed into law.”
“Republicans, aided by Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema, succeeded in blocking much-needed reforms to protect our democracy, but we will not give up in our collective fight to protect our freedom to vote,” said Abby Maxman, CEO of Oxfam America. “The right to vote is a cornerstone of American democracy—the right that allows each of us to participate in the policy making over the decisions that affect our lives. Republicans are working to relentlessly and systematically to strip away a right that has been at the heart of the struggle for justice in our country since its founding.”
ADL championed the Voting Rights Act before its passage in 1965, and has long recognized it as one of the most important and effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed.
Recently, ADL joined prominent civil rights groups NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice by urging leaders in the business community to speak up in support of legislation that would protect and enhance voting rights.