The “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” could be taken up for a vote by the U.S. Senate as early as next week.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) joined 22 of her colleagues in other states in sending a letter to Congressional leaders threatening to sue should H.R. 4, the “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” becomes law.
The attorneys general addressed the letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), Senator Chuck Schumer (D), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R), and Senator Mitch McConnell (R), calling the bill a “reckless piece of legislation.”
The state AGs say the bill would allow the United States Department of Justice to usurp the authority states rightly possess over their own elections, essentially federalizing the election system. It would also reestablish federal preclearance for state election law changes, among other actions intended to curb states from strengthening its voting processes.
“The founding fathers purposely and thoughtfully gave Congress a secondary role in election decision-making. H.R. 4 seeks to flip this Constitutional mandate on its head, turning the Department of Justice into a federal ‘election czar,’ wielding the power to challenge any new or existing election law based on the whims of the party in power and its desire to manipulate election laws to increase its chances to remain in power,” the state attorneys general write. “H.R. 4 seeks to do just that. These changes would give the Biden Administration and administrations to follow (Republican and Democrat) the power to exert considerable control over state and local election laws without any finding of intentional discrimination. “
The 23 attorneys general argue that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was necessary to combat discrimination in a limited number of jurisdictions at that time. But times have changed.
“H.R. 4 looks backwards to the conditions of 1965, not the ‘current conditions’ that exist in 2021. Today, the ability to vote is widely accessible,” the AGs state, adding, “Today, the main concern among citizens is no longer voter discrimination, it is in preventing voter fraud, safeguarding the right to vote, and ensuring that every legal vote is counted undiluted by illegal votes.”
The attorneys general say the legislation is a “misguided, clumsy, and heavy-handed effort” to circumvent Supreme Court decisions, state sovereignty, and the will of the people. They say giving the Department of Justice unlimited authority over state election laws is not only unnecessary but also unconstitutional.
“H.R. 4 permits politically appointed bureaucrats to meddle in state affairs, is unlawful, and violates state sovereignty,” the attorneys general write.
Joining Mississippi’s Attorney General Fitch in signing the letter are AGs from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wes Virginia.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate will need at least 10 Republicans to crossover and support this bill for it to move forward. Senate Majority Leader Schumer said earlier this week that the bill could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week.
“If these provisions are enacted,” the AGs write, “rest assured that the undersigned will aggressively defend our citizens’ rights to participate in free and fair elections without unconstitutional federal intrusion.”