Prominent Latino politicians in Washington have expressed support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which comes amid a string of restrictive new election laws from Republican-controlled state legislative bodies.
The bill, which is named after the Georgia congressman and civil rights leader who passed away last year, would restore a provision of a 1965 voting rights act that was removed by the Supreme Court, and would require some jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to receive approval, known as preclearance, from the Justice Department before making any additional changes to local voting rules.
The bill is now headed to the Senate, where it is expected to meet stiff resistance from Republican lawmakers.
An LPO source on Capitol Hill said it is likely many Latino Democrats across the country will focus on the issue going forward.
The bill has won the support of prominent Latino lawmakers, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
"We have duty to ensure every eligible voter has access to the ballot box," said CHC Chair Raul Ruiz, a Mexico-born Representative from California.
He added that the CHC believes the bill will "prevent voter suppression, safeguard the integrity of our democratic process, and ensure every American has a voice in our democracy, regardless of their zip code.
The bill comes amid concerns that voters states with sizeable Latino populations, such as Texas and Arizona, would be disenfranchised by GOP efforts to impose new voting rules, such as bans on drive-thru voting or additional requirements to voter ID laws.
Representative RaÃºl M. Grijalva (Democrat-Arizona) said in a statement that across the US, "the fundamental right to vote is in a constant state of erosion."
He noted that this year alone, 18 states have enacted 30 laws restricting the right to vote.
"These brazen attacks on voting rights by state legislatures and local lawmakers demonstrate precisely why the protections of the Voting Rights Act are still woefully needed," Grijalva added. "Slowly and methodically, those federal voting protections to prevent racial discrimination have been gutted."
An LPO source on Capitol Hill said it was no surprise that many Latino Democrats were discussing the issue.
"If this is explained properly, this is an issue that will really resonate in black and brown communities across the country," the source said. "If it were up to me, I'd make it clear in messaging that it is unpatriotic from the GOP to undermines access to the polls. It's a pillar of our Democracy and it's under attack."
The source added that "it's vital for Democrats to instill confidence in the voting process after the sort of baseless attacks that we've seen in the last year." Rep. Joaquin Castro: Texas voting bill restrictions are "a now or never moment" for US Democracy
The source's thoughts were echoed in a statement by Juan Cartagena, the president and general counsel of the New York-based LatinoJustice PRLDEF, formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Cartagena said that "democracy itself is in real peril."
"Democracy's fragility is challenged with each baseless attack about election integrity from partisan operatives that cannot accept losing elections outright," he said. "Even worse is the overt, pernicious admission by one of the America's political parties that if every eligible voter were able to vote, they would lose elections outright. Hence, voter suppression."
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