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Press Release

Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Anniversary of the Death of Congressman John Lewis

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland issued the following statement today commemorating the life of Congressman John Lewis:

“One year ago today, the nation lost Congressman John Lewis. Throughout his life, Congressman Lewis fought fearlessly to ensure people’s freedom, equality, and other basic human rights. Nowhere was his impact greater than on strengthening the foundation of our democracy – the right to vote.

“Congressman Lewis often spoke about getting into ‘good trouble, necessary trouble,’ and his ‘trouble’ got results. In 1965, he and other civil rights leaders were attacked by state troopers as they peacefully marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Their act of protest paved the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and an exponential increase in Black voter registration.

“In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision effectively eliminated the preclearance protections of the Voting Rights Act, which had proved to be one of the nation’s most effective tools for safeguarding voting rights. During the half-century it was in effect, the Justice Department relied on the preclearance provision to object to more than one thousand discriminatory voting changes. Since 2013, there has been a dramatic rise across the country in legislative efforts that make it harder for millions of citizens to vote. This increase accelerated after the 2020 elections.

“The recent further narrowing of voting protections only underscores the need for legislative action. The Department of Justice is using all the tools at its disposal to protect the voting rights of all citizens, but that is not enough. We need Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would provide the Department with important tools to protect the right to vote and to ensure that every vote is counted. There is no more fitting way to honor the profound legacy of Congressman Lewis.”

Updated August 9, 2021

Civil Rights
Voting and Elections
Press Release Number: 21-666