Tag Archives: Right to vote

John R. Lewis – Though I am gone…

“Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

New York Times, By John Lewis, July 30, 2020

Mr. Lewis, the civil rights leader who died on July 17, wrote this essay shortly before his death, to be published upon the day of his funeral.

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

Voting by people of color is up, but so are barriers built by Republicans

Americans across the country still face significant barriers when attempting to vote. It’s time Republicans come to terms with that.

Eric H. Holder Jr. and Stacey Abrams
USA Today, by Stacey Abrams and Eric H. Holder Jr., June 15, 2020

At the core of our American democracy is the belief that the people should elect the leaders who give voice to their values and ambitions. The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, yet over the past decade, partisanship has overtaken patriotism in the political process. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect access to the ballot. For decades, the Voting Rights Act received bipartisan reauthorization in Congress, but this bill received just a single Republican vote.

At the state level, Republicans have passed a raft of laws designed to block, deflect and deny access to the ballot. Since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 states have put heightened voting restrictions in place, almost entirely guided by Republican officials.

These efforts were aided by gerrymandering of state legislatures in 2011 that locked in their power and a disastrous Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Alabama, in 2013 that gutted federal protections for minority voters. Yet the acute attention from Congress and others to the scourge of voter suppression — the intent and effect of these new voting restrictions — has led to cries of innocence and feigned outrage.

Republicans are gaslighting voters

Recently, Republicans have offered a new argument to deny widespread voter suppression and misdirect the public about their actions. They claim that because high numbers of voters of color participated in the 2018 election, voter suppression could not possibly have occurred.

Employing this level of purposefully lazy gaslighting of voters who were deprived of their constitutional rights is shocking but not surprising, given that it comes from a political party whose strategy for victory relies so heavily on making voting more difficult.

In Covington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6, 2018.
In Covington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6, 2018. Meg Vogel/The Cincinnati Enquirer Via The USA TODAY Network

Put simply, an increase in participation does not negate the fact that challenges can also increase. Indeed, in elections in the past 20 years, the obstacles have grown more complex and harmful, and the injuries are real. While more voters of color successfully navigated impediments to registration and ballot access in 2018, we cannot blithely ignore the tens of thousands of others silenced by purgesexact match schemes and closed precincts.

Republicans are rigging elections to win:They’re anti-voter and anti-democracy

Turnout reached the highest level among voters of color in 2018 than in any previous midterm election in memory. They turned out in droves because they were seen, heard and inspired. In Georgia, for example, an analysis by the Stacey Abrams gubernatorial campaign showed that 1.2 million black voters cast ballots for the Democratic ticket — compared with 1.15 million voters of all races who had supported it four years earlier.

Even so, those numbers do not reflect the gauntlet of problems faced by voters, too many of whom were rejected or denied before having their ballots counted. Equally worrisome and worthy of investigation are the additional eligible voters who would have had their voices heard if only there were fewer obstacles.

High barriers and high participation

Across the country, the perverse position Republicans have taken is to use higher participation rates among voters of color to claim that voter suppression does not exist. Worse, some go so far as to take credit for record turnout. In many cases, higher turnout by voters of color led to lines of four hours or more due to too few machines, faulty poll books, a lack of power cordspoorly trained election workers and more. Some overcame these challenges and had their votes counted, but that does not erase the obstacles.

The fact that people of color voted in droves in 2018 is proof that voter turnout and voter suppression can operate independently but also in relation to one another. Research shows that those most aware of suppression activities may employ anger at the partisan nature of disenfranchisement as a motivating force and take extraordinary steps to overwhelm its effect by amplifying participation. Increases in voter turnout are also a very real response to the threat of voter suppression.

Before 2020:Upgrade voting systems, restore Voting Rights Act, end voter suppression

Still, as Americans, we must not elide the real effect of these actions. The denial of even a single voter’s right to be heard should concern all of us. If even one eligible voter’s name is missing from the poll book, if even one parent must leave a long line to pick up a child from school, if even one voter’s registration is held up because of a so-called unusual name, our elections are not truly free and fair.

We must continue to speak the truth and hold government officials accountable until every eligible voter’s voice can be heard. If Republicans are not outraged by voter suppression, if they are only are incensed that their actions have been called out, then that raises a question Americans should ask themselves: Why are Republicans afraid of free and fair elections?


Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, was the first African American woman nominee of a major party for governor and is the founder of Fair Fight and Fair Count. Eric H. Holder Jr., chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, was U.S. attorney general for six years during the Obama administration, the first African American to hold that position. Follow them on Twitter: @staceyabrams and @EricHolder