The House of Representatives passed a bill to undermine state voter ID laws on Friday by a mostly party-line vote of 228-187.
H.R. 4 — also called the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 — is an effort by House Democrats to restore preclearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were thrown out by the Supreme Court in the 2013 ruling on Shelby County v. Holder. It seeks to do this by updating the preclearance formula that the high court rejected.
Only one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Penn., voted with Democrats in favor of the measure. The House’s lone independent, Justin Amash, Mich., voted against the bill.
“Action is urgently needed to combat the brazen voter suppression campaign that is spreading across America,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said said at a press conference ahead of the vote. “We must, we must restore the strength of the voting rights act.”
But what kind of “voter suppression” does the bill go after? House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., put it plainly when he called the legislation “a good step to right the wrongs that’ve dismantled the fundamental right to vote through Voter ID laws, purging voter rolls & closing majority-minority polling places.”
And while the bill’s proponents portray it as an effort to protect voting rights, conservatives criticized the measure as undermining efforts to combat voter fraud by exerting more federal government control over state and local election practices.
“This bill would essentially, federalize state and local election laws when there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that those states or localities engaged in any discriminatory behavior when it comes to voting,” said top House Judiciary Committee Republican Rep. Doug Collins, Ga., in a statement sent out ahead of the vote.
“Full protections are afforded under current federal law for all those with valid claims of discrimination in voting,” Collins explained. “Unfortunately, the bill before us today would turn those federal shields that protect voters into political weapons.”
“Supporters of the legislation simply want to reverse state voter identification laws,” the Club for Growth said in opposition to the measure. “Voter ID laws protect the integrity of the ballot box. This legislation would sacrifice that integrity by allowing the possibility of more illegal votes to be cast and the will of legal voters’ decisions to be thwarted by voter fraud.”
The bill is expected to die in the Republican-controlled Senate.