For Immediate Release:
Democracy Initiative: On Anniversary of Voting Rights Act,
Let’s Respond to Today’s Marchers for Social Justice with
Real Change, not Rubber Bullets
WASHINGTON, DC – “The fight to defend and expand our democracy is just as urgent today as it was 55 years ago,” said Wendy Fields, executive director of the Democracy Initiative. The coalition of 75 civil rights, environmental and labor organizations, representing a combined 45 million members, is joining allies and partners today to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
“In 1965, Congress moved only after courageous activists—including the late John Lewis—were brutally attacked when they marched for the right to vote,” said Fields. “Activists are showing courage again today, marching to protest structural and strategic racism, police brutality and the steady erosion of our democratic rights.”
“Instead of responding with unmarked federal troops, tear gas and rubber bullets, it’s time for our elected officials to ensure every vote counts and every vote is counted.”
After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, cowardly politicians who are afraid of public accountability began systematic efforts to suppress voting rights. According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, more than 1,600 polling places—almost all in Black and brown communities—were closed between 2012 and 2018.
And in states like Florida—where a 64% supermajority of voters approved a referendum to restore voting rights to 1.4 million former inmates—politicians trampled democracy, overruling the electorate by imposing harsh fees and bureaucratic obstacles to voting.
“In a democracy, voters have the right to choose politicians, not the other way around,” said Fields. “Sadly, what we’re seeing now is the supersizing of voter suppression. Not just Black and brown voters, but the entire country is being targeted, with attacks against our public Postal Service and the right to vote by mail during a pandemic.”
“President Obama was precisely on point at John Lewis’ funeral,” said Fields. “We need to restore the Voting Rights Act—and go even further with automatic registration, more polling places, expanded early voting and vote-by-mail, and making Election Day a national holiday. The right to vote is no luxury—it’s a necessity.”
The Democracy Initiative is a coalition of 75 organizations with a collective 45 million members fighting for workers, civil rights, social justice and the environment. DI partner organizations are united in their commitment to realizing the promise of American democracy where all people have an equal seat at the governance table.