Civil Rights Leaders Respond to Senate Vote on John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Teresa Candori (National Urban League), [email protected], 212-558-5362
Marc Banks (NAACP), [email protected], 404-849-3189
Kiren Marshall (The Leadership Conference), [email protected], 202-780-9835
Rachel Noerdlinger (National Action Network), [email protected], 347-821-9678
Lacy Crawford Jr. (Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law), [email protected], 202-558-7900
Angelo Greco (National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women’s Roundtable), [email protected], 917-499-2688
Juan Martinez, [NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)], [email protected], 212-956-2200

WASHINGTON — Leaders from legacy civil rights organizations held a press briefing today following the Senate’s vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — critically important legislation that would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and prevent barriers to the ballot box for Black, Latino, Indigenous, young, and new Americans.

A replay of the briefing is available here.

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said: “The Court in Shelby County rejected the formula requiring certain states to preclear their voting changes as ‘decades-old and outdated.’ But it instructed that Congress could update the law based on ‘current conditions’ in voting. The Leadership Conference has published 13 state reports that document — chapter and verse — those ‘current conditions’ of pervasive and pernicious racial discrimination in voting. The evidence could not be clearer that ‘current conditions’ compel Senate action to restore the Voting Rights Act.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) said: “This is a shameful day for the United States Senate and a sad day in the history of our constitutional democracy. For the first time in its history, the Voting Rights Act failed to garner bipartisan support. All but one Republican, including many of those who voted to amend the Voting Rights Act in 2006, when it passed 98-0, chose today not to advance debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. By placing the filibuster — an archaic Senate procedure that is nowhere to be found in the Constitution — above the fundamental rights of Black people and other people of color, these Senators have shown themselves to be incapable of fulfilling the solemn vow each Senator takes to uphold and defend the Constitution. To be clear, the Senate has both the duty and the responsibility to protect the right to vote, and it must commit to taking action immediately to address the filibuster, restore the Voting Rights Act, and stop the wave of voter suppression laws being passed across the country. LDF will remain deeply engaged in this effort and continue to fight for the full rights and citizenship of Black people in the electoral process and in all aspects of society.”

Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League said: “The 117th Congress will be remembered for overseeing the systematic dismantling of American democracy and the desecration of our most sacred Constitutional right. The racially-discriminatory voter suppression that has run rampant through the states is unconscionable; the Senate’s abject failure to contain it is unforgivable. I implore every Senator to examine his or her heart, to hear the voices of the martyrs who bled and died to claim the right to vote, and to be guided by the better angels of their nature.”

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO, The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, The Black Women’s Roundtable said: “Shame on the United States senators who voted along party lines to block this legislation that is fundamental to our democracy. Our voting rights are being attacked all over this country for one obvious reason: partisan gain and to keep power in the hands of a select few. The very fiber of our democracy is predicated on the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’ which is being undermined in over 48 states by Republican state legislatures across the nation. This tsunami of egregious voter suppression laws are designed to stop Black voters, other people of color, and young people from voting. Black people and our allies will continue to fight for our voting rights in the streets and the halls of Congress, just as our ancestors did. We will keep marching and agitating until Congress does its job to pass federal voting rights legislation to protect our democracy. It is time for the leadership in the U.S. Senate to reform the filibuster rules in order to do the peoples’ business without delay — that includes passing John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom To Vote Act.”

Damon Hewitt, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said: “After the 2020 elections, in states across the country, we’ve witnessed lawmakers strategically target the ways communities of color vote to silence our voice, power, and right to choose our destiny. Voter suppression may be on the march, but so are we. We will continue to fight inside and outside the courts to ensure that voting is expanded and that people can choose their leaders, not the other way around. We call on the White House and lawmakers to do everything in their power to pass federal legislation to protect the right to vote.”

Reverend Al Sharpton, president & founder, National Action Network said: “After yesterday’s election, we know that certain great candidates and policies continue to slip through the cracks. In order to keep voting and maintain our representation, Congress must pass laws like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Everything we want, in the Black, brown, poor, sick, disabled communities comes from the right to vote. I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to not simply dismiss this legislation like they did today but come to the table and find common ground for the sake of their constituents.”

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP said: “The very lawmakers who pledge to fight for the Black community have broken yet another promise today. They have failed not only to honor the late, great John Lewis, but all American people. Don’t take the Black vote for granted. Our future depends on the restoration of voting rights for all. Those who made campaign promises to the Black community must use any means possible to ensure that this Congress gets it done. The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated. We are watching.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 230 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit

Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957 — although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund, also referred to as the NAACP-LDF, was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization, and shares our commitment to equal rights.

The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. The National Urban League spearheads the efforts of its 90 local affiliates through the development of programs, public policy research and advocacy, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than 2 million people annually nationwide. Visit and follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @NatUrbanLeague and @NULPolicy.

The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) is one of the most active civil rights and social justice organizations in the nation “dedicated to increasing civic engagement, economic and voter empowerment in Black America.” The Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) is the women and girls’ empowerment and power building arm of the NCBCP. At the forefront of championing just and equitable public policy on behalf of Black women, BWR promotes their health and wellness, economic security & prosperity, education and global empowerment as key elements for success.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit

National Action Network (NAN) is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation, with chapters throughout the entire United States. Founded in 1991 by Reverend Al Sharpton, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights plan that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or gender.

Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP.