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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to restore powerful protections for voters of color, six years after the Supreme Court stripped away key safeguards against racial discrimination enshrined in America's landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI SAYING:
"This is a really happy day for all of us, but for our country especially. So many people worked so hard to make this possible, over a couple of hundred years as a matter of fact, so that makes it a historic day for the Congress and for the country as we pass HR 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act."
The bill restores greater Federal oversight of elections in states that have a history of discrimination against minority voters.
That's done by updating the formula used to determine which states must preclear their voter registration practices.
It also requires public notice for changes to voting registration, and it allows the U.S. attorney general to send federal observers anywhere in the U.S.
Democratic representative John Lewis, who was beaten in 1965 while fighting for equal voting rights during the civil rights movement, played a key role in getting the new measure passed in the House.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REPRESENTATIVE JOHN LEWIS (D-GA) SAYING:
"There are forces in America today trying to take us back to another time and another place. But the passage of this bill, we're saying not going back. We're going forward."
But the legislation was passed in a mostly party-line vote, with only a single Republican joining Democrats.
The GOP largely dismissed the legislation as a 'messaging bill,' while taking pains to emphasize that their opposition was not to voting rights on the whole, but to shifting control over elections from states to the federal government.
Democrats have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill up for a vote in the Senate.
With the White House already threatening to veto the legislation, though, analysts say that's unlikely.