The House voted on Tuesday to restore federal oversight of state election laws under the 1965 Voting Rights Act and expand its reach, as Democrats moved to strengthen a crowning legislative achievement of the civil rights era amid a renewed national fight over access to the ballot box.
The legislation, named after Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon who died last year, is a linchpin of the party’s strategy to combat voting restrictions in Republican-led states. It would reverse two Supreme Court rulings that gutted the statute, reviving the power of the Justice Department to bar some discriminatory election changes from taking effect and easing the path to challenge others in court.
Up against urgent deadlines before next year’s midterm elections, Democrats votedalong party lines to adopt the bill 219 to 212 in a rare August session, just days after it was introduced. But stiff Republican opposition awaits in the Senate, where a likely filibuster threatens to sink it before it can reach President Biden’s desk.
That outcome is becoming familiar this summer, as Democrats on Capitol Hill try to use their party’s control of Congress and the White House to lock in watershed election changes — only to be blocked by their Republican counterparts. In the meantime, more than a dozen G.O.P.-led states have already enacted more than 30 laws this year making it harder to vote.