WASHINGTON, DC — Recently, civil rights leaders including Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III hosted a call to honor the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, amid news of a new federal voting rights bill potentially being proposed next week.
Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III were joined by Arndrea Waters King, Alejandro Chavez, Andi Pringle, and
Stasha Rhodes — the organizers hosting the national March On For Voting Rights on August 28th. The leaders answered questions about necessary Congressional action on voting rights, their recent Hill meetings with Texas state Democrats, and the need for federal legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act after key provisions were stripped away in the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder decision.
Growing calls for Congress to eliminate the filibuster and pass national voting rights protections come as state-level voting attacks spread across the country. That call to secure the sacred right to vote will culminate on Saturday, August 28th, when millions across the country join the March On for Voting Rights in D.C., Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta and Miami to make their voices heard.
Highlights from the conversation:
“Achieving change, especially legislative change, is not based on the urgency of the lawmakers — it is based on the urgency of those of us that are going to force the lawmakers. Nobody got up one morning and said ‘it’s time to give people a right to vote.’ It was the women’s movement and it was the Civil Rights Movement that made that urgency happen,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, Founder and President of National Action Network. “[In 1963] the votes didn’t look like they were there. That’s why activists have to get acting — if it was already there, we would have never had a movement. [President] Lyndon Johnson didn’t lead the Voting Rights Movement, he signed the bill. [President] Joe Biden will sign this bill, and we’re going to be the ones that make sure that there’s something for him to sign.”
“There is something happening in the fabric [of America]. Last year after the death of George Floyd we saw more civil rights demonstrations by Americans than we’ve seen in a long time… That same energy is being galvanized around expanding the right to vote,” said Martin Luther King III, Chairman of the Drum Major Institute. “My father used to say that a voteless people is a powerless people, and the most powerful step that we can take is that short step to the ballot box. […] We must demand that America become who it ought to be, and one of the ways it does that is through its most fundamental right: the right to vote. So we will come together on August 28th and […] fight on this issue.”
“For those who wonder whether they would have marched with Dr. King or Cesar Chavez, the answer is in whether you’re marching now,” said Arndrea Waters King, President of the Drum Major Institute. “As Martin’s father said, ‘Change has never rolled in on wheels of inevitability. It’s always been through the tireless efforts of men and women doing their part in co-creation with God.’ If there are elected officials who don’t believe that there’s still passion around this movement, on August 28th, we the people are going to show our power in numbers, unlike ever before.”
“I believe this is our ‘I Have a Dream’ moment. This is our ‘Si Se Puede’ moment — to come together and say ‘this is it’…it’s about equal rights for everyone across the board,” said Alejandro Chavez, Grandson of Cesar Chavez and Arizona-based organizer. “For the organizers and everyone around the country that fights for farmworkers’ rights, fights for civil rights, fights for ERA rights, fights for every issue — if we do not protect voting rights now, those issues do not matter.”
“This is the moment that either we do what is right and honest, and rescue democracy, or we take a huge step towards autocracy. That’s what the March On for Voting Rights is all about,” said Andi Pringle, Political and Strategic Campaigns Director for March On. “Today, 18 states have signed more than 30 [voter suppression] bills into law. They undo so much of the progress that was made in voting access, not just in the 2020 election, but since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. We’re standing in the middle of what you might call a perfect storm, but it’s really an existential crisis for democracy in America.”
Background on Voting Rights Act Anniversary:
Today, we commemorate a historic victory for the civil rights movement — the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — that the original 1963 March on Washington helped bring about.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 explicitly prohibited racial discrimination in voting, provided for direct federal intervention to ensure that Black Americans could register and vote, and banned tactics like poll taxes commonly used to prevent voters from participating in democracy. The bill made good on the promise of the 15th Amendment, which said that no citizen could be denied the right to vote on the basis of the color of their skin.
But in 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder held that preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The court’s decision opened the door for states to enact sweeping and racially discriminatory voter suppression laws, making it harder for people to vote. In 2021 alone, over 400 racially-targeted voter suppression laws have been proposed in states around the country.
To protect our most sacred right to vote, we need Congress to pass the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and the Washington, D.C. Admission Act.
For more information on the march, please contact email@example.com
or visit https://marchonforvotingrights.org/.