Voting Rights For A Planet We Can Thrive On
by Jonathan Butler
May 6, 2021
Building a Better Democracy in II Acts: John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement & For the People
In the 2020 election, an unprecedented number of people used their vote like never before. Some of us voted early, some of us voted by mail, and some cast our vote on Election Day. Despite the many hurdles, including global pandemic and racial violence, we showed up in record numbers and decided the outcome of a free and fair election.
As an immediate backlash to exercising our democratic rights, extremists legislators have already introduced bill restriction voting rights.
As of Late March, more than 361 anti-voting bills have been introduced in 47 states. Among other things, these bills would cut early voting, limit absentee voting options, and purge voter registration lists.
A good majority of these bills are coming from Republican state legislatures that Biden won in 2020 and are designed to suppress the votes in Black and Brown communities. The message is clear: there are those who do not want us to exercise our freedom to vote and make our voice heard. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous this is, given that we only have a few years left to reverse the worst effects of the climate crisis. Every moment and every voice counts.
But there is hope. Congress is on the verge of passing laws to protect and strengthen our rights with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S.1). Together, these bills would stop the attempts to stifle our freedom to vote dead in its tracks. H.R. 4 and H.R. 1/S.1 guarantee everyone the freedom to vote, no exceptions. And these reforms couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
No person is more synonymous with voting rights than the late Congressman John Lewis. The civil rights activist and leader served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district for 34 years, until his death in 2020.
A lifelong organizer, he started as a student where he organized sit ins with the Nashville Student Movement. He became an organizer with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 when he was only 23 years old. Two years later, he led the march from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama, where white police officers attacked the marchers. He was left with a broken skull.
Coining the phrase “good trouble, necessary trouble,” Lewis understood the absolute necessity of exercising our rights to protest, to speak out, to vote. He understood that for this country to move forward, for this country to thrive, all of us, Black people, Brown people, recent Americans, had to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
It is no surprise that the bills he’s worked so hard to pass in his lifetime hold the key to move us closer to a world that values all of us. Where people who are most affected by racial injustices and the damages of climate change, can make their voices heard.
No matter our race, background, or zip code most of us believe that for democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all.
Throughout our history, as John Lewis’ legacy shows, we have fought to ensure more people’s votes are cast and counted. But a handful of politicians, and the dark money that fuels them, want to set us back, making it harder to vote and creating barriers to register for Black, young and new Americans. They hope to divide and distract us while they block popular policies, from providing economic support, to delivering vaccines, restoring our infrastructure, and acting on climate change.
The For the People Act will protect our freedom to vote by making sure that voting options are equally accessible across all 50 states, make sure our voices are heard by preventing billionaires from buying our elections, and ensure we can elect leaders who govern in our interests by having congressional districts drawn by independent commissions.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore and strengthen our freedom to vote by making sure that any changes to voting rules that could discriminate against voters based on our race or background are federally reviewed, so we all have an equal say in our future.
It’s time our elected officials make these bills a reality because for our democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all.