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NAACP, Black Leaders Demand Congress Act on Voting Rights

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By: Stacy M. Brown

“With time not on our side, there is no reason we should still be debating whether to pass a civil rights bill that will indubitably strengthen our fractured democracy by achieving the one goal our nation’s essence depends on – lending a voice to the people.”

Rally in front of Shelby County courthouse participants holding up signs of states covered by the Voting Rights Act. (Courtesy Photo)

With voter suppression laws taking shape in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and just about every GOP-led state in the nation, NAACP President Derrick Johnson is pleading for Democrats and the White House to show a sense of urgency.
In a scathing op-ed, Johnson said, “we cannot out-organize voter suppression.”

“We organized in November to put people in office to address the issue of voter suppression. We did not organize in November to let elected officials off the hook to organize again and overcome a new hurdle. Voters did their job as citizens, and now they’re simply asking elected officials to do their job to protect our right to vote,” Johnson remarked.
Nearly six decades after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights activists led the 1963 March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom, that helped establish voting rights for millions of Black Americans, African American leaders will again descend on the nation’s capital to demand Congress protect the rights.

Martin Luther King III, Yolanda King, Andrea Waters King, and others plan to march with more than 140 organizations and thousands of Americans on Saturday, August 28, to advocate for eliminating the Jim Crow filibuster and passing three critical voting rights bills – the For the People ActJohn Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Washington D.C. Admission Act.

The mobilization comes just months after Black voters overcame significant barriers to the vote and organized their communities to change the course of the country — “and now ask that the White House and Congress do their part to protect our democracy and stand on the right side of history,” the leaders said in a news release.

Martin Luther King III plans to appear this week on the National Newspaper Publishers Association live morning news program, “Let It Be Known,” to discuss the march and voting rights.

In his op-ed, Johnson declared that “voting rights shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Yet the contentious dispute on whether to defend every American’s right to vote has taken center stage in Congress, and for an unnecessary amount of precious time.”

He continued:
“With time not on our side, there is no reason we should still be debating whether to pass a civil rights bill that will indubitably strengthen our fractured democracy by achieving the one goal our nation’s essence depends on – lending a voice to the people.”

Johnson contradicted Republican Congressman Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who infamously and erroneously stated that “it is easier for eligible Americans to vote than ever before in American history.”

“State legislators around the country have introduced more than 400 bills that will make it more difficult for Americans to exercise their constitutional voting rights, and at least 18 states have passed such legislation,” Johnson wrote.

“Ingrained in these attacks on voting rights are generations-long patterns of discrimination targeting communities of color, particularly Black communities. The overwhelming evidence of voter suppression speaks to this truth: It is easier for privileged, eligible Americans to vote than ever before in American history.”

Any decision not in favor of significant voting legislation under consideration by Congress will cost the lives of millions of Americans whose very voices are jeopardized, Johnson insisted.

“For instance, in May, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation to ban curbside voting, consequentially forbidding poll workers to set up curbside voting centers and preventing voting machines from being stationed outside a polling place,” Johnson noted.

“While many proponents argue that this restriction is rightfully erected to honor the integrity of our elections, this rationalization completely disregards the lack of accommodating resources for the elderly and people with disabilities – and the overall safety and wellness of voters who reside in a state where COVID-19 vaccinations are abysmal and infection rates are rising.”

When signing the 1965 voting rights legislation, President Lyndon B. Johnson understood that the right to vote is an issue of human dignity, Johnson continued.

“He once said, ‘It is wrong, deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.”

“Elected officials hold the invaluable key to ensuring that our future elections are fair and accessible. Those in power who have given an oath to serve their district, their state, and inherently their country have a responsibility to commit to their purpose of guaranteeing that the people they represent and champion will be heard and not be silenced.”