Election 2020

John Lewis: 'To be Able to Vote Must be as Easy as Getting a Clean Glass of Water'

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) attend a news conference on the East Front lawn to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act on June 22, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – House Democrats identified 13 states that would be covered by the proposed Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA).

“The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which we just filed today, has over 182 co-signers. We are excited as a caucus to be behind making sure we restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Rep Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) said Thursday during a news conference on Capitol Hill.

According to the specific language of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, if 15 or more “voting rights violations” occur statewide, pre-clearance from the Justice Department would be required in order to change any voting laws.

Sewell said there are 13 states that would be “captured” by the bill’s new rules: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said the bill would eventually pass if the Democrats win the majority in the House.

“The public should know that there are obstacles to participation to our democracy, that our founders thought just of something completely different from this,” she said.

“It’s a sacred right. It’s the basis for a democracy. I often say to them, if and when you go to heaven and you see our Founders, how do you approach them and say, ‘I did everything in my power to suppress the vote?’ It’s just unpatriotic. It’s un-American, and you have our commitment that this will become the law when we are in the majority,” she added.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called for automatic voter registration, which would automatically add about 50 million eligible voters to the rolls.

“We need to make sure that this sacred right is passed on from generation to generation,” she said at the press conference.

NAACP Washington Bureau director Hilary Shelton echoed Klobuchar.

“Does it not make sense that on your 18th birthday, you are automatically registered for the draft, you should not automatically be registered to vote? It makes sense,” he said.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said the “restoration of the vote” is needed now more than ever before.

“Some of us gave some time in jail. Some of us gave a little blood. Some of us died for it, and we must not be at home with ourselves until the vote is restored,” Lewis said during the press conference. “We must do it not just for us, not just for this generation but for generations yet unborn. To be able to vote must be as easy as getting a clean glass of water. Let’s do it.”

Sewell called on millennials to use social media to speak out against voter ID laws. She said voting rights has “never” been about partisanship.

“We know that we stand on the shoulders of amazing people. We know that we have the rights and freedoms that we enjoy because of other’s sacrifice and we know that freedom is not free, so it’s important that we amplify our voices,” Sewell said. “I’m asking millennials to use Snapchat and all of the other social media that you have to amplify your voices to get your generation involved. So here’s the thing, your vote is your vote. And if you allow your vote to be suppressed, you’re allowing your voice to be suppressed.”