Advancement Project, AFL-CIO Hold Panel on Right to Vote
Watch Panel Video Here: http://bit.ly/1U9Wv3r
WASHINGTON – With the first presidential election without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act approaching this November, voters all over the country – especially people of color – will be more exposed to voter suppression. This is not by accident, but the result of carefully-crafted assaults on the right to vote. Yesterday, grassroots organizers, civil rights elders, leading advocates and Congressman Keith Ellison held a conversation hosted by Advancement Project and the AFL-CIO on one of the most fundamental yet compromised rights: the right to vote.
Panelists analyzed lessons learned from the decades-long fight for voting rights and charted a path forward to once and for all guarantee the right to vote.
“Most people find it hard to believe that the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not explicitly affirm nor guarantee the right to vote,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project. “That the right to vote is not enshrined in the Constitution is inextricably tied to the history of race in America. The right to vote is instrumental to preserve all other rights in a democracy, and yet the founders compromised on this right in order to accommodate slave states and slavery. What our body politic desperately needs is for us to breathe new life into the Constitution and into our democracy. Communities of color are on the verge of becoming the new American majority. For this new majority to achieve its potential we must defeat the structural racism that perpetuates white supremacy – and that fight takes place on the ground. It is powered by organized communities rising up and claiming what is rightfully ours: our voice, our self-determination, our right to vote.”
“It’s a disgrace that Congress and state leaders continue to erect new barriers to people trying to vote,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. “We’ve seen voter suppression this primary season, and now more than ever we must fight to give a voice to those who have been left out of the voting process for far too long. We demand and deserve a democracy where everyone’s voice is heard.”
“Race and power dynamics have been interdependent in Missouri since our state’s inception,” said Jamala Rogers, executive director of Organization for Black Struggle. “Conservatives’ latest attempt to weaken our state constitution’s right to vote represents the latest chapter in a long line of efforts to curtail rights from people of color. Some on their side may fear that the killing of Mike Brown, and the uprising that followed, has galvanized communities of color into action. They should indeed be on notice. Just like we will not allow our communities to be brutalized or hunted down by police, we will not sit idly by while they chip away at our right to vote.”
“The problems with Flint originated with a law stipulating that people can lose access to democracy – not due to war or martial law, but because a city or school district is in debt,” said Nayyirah Sharriff of the Flint Democracy Defense League. “Democracy should not only be available to geographies that can afford it, and it should certainly not be imperiled in Black communities.”
“We have to continue to engage in the struggle because for every action there is a reaction,” said Courtland Cox of the SNCC Legacy Project. “There are always forces trying to destroy you – different perspectives and economic interests – who are not served by people of color to having full access to the ballot.”