By Howard Koplowitz
A voting rights bill sponsored by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, and named after Alabama native, civil rights leader and late Rep. John Lewis, did not have the backing of Sewell’s state colleagues in the House when it passed the lower chamber Tuesday.
Among the members of Alabama’s congressional delegation to vote against the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act — also known as H.R. 4 — was Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, who said prior to Tuesday’s vote that the bill “effectively turns our election results into what we so often see in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, Venezuela and any number of other pretend republics.”
Sewell said the bill would reinstate pre-clearance requirements for states and localities that were found to have passed discriminatory voting rights laws — a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.
The legislation, which passed along party lines in a 219-212 vote Tuesday, was inspired in part by the proliferation of what Sewell called antidemocratic voting bills passed in Republican led state Legislatures throughout the country in response to the 2020 presidential election.
“The passage of H.R. 4 couldn’t come at a more critical time,” Sewell said in a statement. “As states and localities erect deliberate barriers to the ballot box at an unprecedented pace, the need for federal oversight has never been more urgent. The Senate must now use every tool at its disposal to pass this bill and ensure it lands on President Biden’s desk. There is absolutely no time to waste.”
Brooks slammed the legislation as a bill “masquerading as a cure to end racial discrimination while instead centralizing election control to the federal government.
“I will vote against H.R. 4 because it federalizes elections by giving election micromanaging power to federal bureaucrats. I will vote against H.R. 4 because, much like H.R. 1, it undermines America’s Republic and effectively turns our election results into what we so often see in North Korea, the old Soviet Union, Venezuela and any number of other pretend republics,” the congressman said in a statement. “Citizens can vote, but the election results are predetermined. In sum, H.R. 4 dishonors the American lives lost defending our right to vote and way of life.”
The congressman said the legislation would “undermine America’s election systems” much like the failed H.R. 1, which died in the Senate earlier this year.
Rep. Barry Moore, R-Montgomery, called Sewell’s bill a “delusional attack on democracy.”
“Despite being named after a Civil Rights icon, the title only serves as a guise to hide Democrats’ true intentions of centralizing election power with the federal government,” he said. “I cannot support this delusional attack on democracy, but I remain committed to strengthening election integrity for all Americans.”
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said he voted against H.R. 4 because he believed it was “too overreaching,” said his spokesman, Carson Clark.
“John Lewis and Congressman Aderholt were friends. Congressman Lewis cared deeply about protecting people’s right to vote, as does Congressman Aderholt. But this bill goes far beyond that and basically sets up the United States Attorney General and the D.C. Circuit Court to be in a position to overrule state laws that Democrats do not like,” Clark said.
Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, provided similar reasoning for his vote against the bill.
“Americans are better off when the federal government gets out of the way,” he said. “H.R. 4 is yet another example of dangerous federal government overreach.”