Last week I had an amazing opportunity to co-host the Freedom To Vote Act online discussion via Zoom. My good friend Kamilah Wallace reached out to me about the meeting and I could not pass up the opportunity to educate and learn from others about this political issue. To hear the full podcast episode you can click here to listen on Spotify.
As many of you know there is a gap in voter turnout between generations. According to the U.S. Census, voter turnout was highest among those ages 65 to 74 at 76.0%, while the percentage was the lowest among those ages 18 to 24 at 51.4%.
Several states, such as Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin, have enacted laws, including voter ID measures, that voting rights advocates argue “disproportionately make voting harder for communities of color, intensifying concerns about voter suppression a half-century after access to the franchise was expanded.”
Despite COVID-19 concerns, approximately 155 million people turned out for the 2020 presidential election. However, 4% (552,500) of registered nonvoters reported not voting due to their concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida, Georgia and Iowa had the highest share of Black eligible voters without health insurance (18%), while Michigan had the lowest share (8%).
In nearly every state, Black Americans have accounted for a disproportionately higher share of COVID-19 deaths, and also have experienced widespread economic hardships.
What Is The Freedom To Vote Act?
The Freedom to Vote Act would prevent voter suppression making voting more accessible and increase the integrity and security of the election process.
This bill if enacted would:
Allow all 50 states to offer early voting periods for at least two weeks prior to Election Day, including on nights and weekends, for at least 10 hours per day (except for jurisdictions with fewer than 3,000 voters)
Allow voters to apply for absentee ballots online and prohibited from restricting the ability of election officials to distribute absentee ballot applications.
Allow no-excuse vote by mail.
Restore federal voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens upon their release.
Creates protections for individuals subjected to excessive lines on Election Day — most often Black and Latino voters — by requiring states to ensure that lines last no longer than 30 minutes and restricting states from prohibiting donations of food or water to voters waiting in line.
Make Election Day a legal public holiday, making it easier for voters to get to the polls.
Require each state to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same access to absentee ballots and applications as other voters, as well as make them electronically accessible to voters with disabilities, among other safeguards.
Ban partisan gerrymandering and establish clear, neutral standards.
Make automatic voter registration (AVR), which 19 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted, the national standard.
Require states to offer same-day voter registration (SDR), which 20 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted.
Enacting this bill would prevent Florida from mandating stricter identification requirements on voters requesting mail ballots, which includes requesting absentee ballots for voters overseas.
Florida election supervisors agree that the stricter rules are unnecessary and can hinder legitimate voters from accessing their ballots.
Take Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp for example who suppressed minority votes after an Associated Press investigation revealed a month before November’s midterm election in 2018 that his office has not approved 53,000 voter registrations – most of them filed by African-Americans.
Kemp defended his actions by pointing out an outdated 2017 state law that requires voter registration information to match exactly with data from the Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration.
Kemp, ran for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an African American woman who believes voters should thrive not just survive in this country.
Let’s not forget following the ratification in 1870 of the 15th Amendment, which barred states from depriving citizens the right to vote based on race, southern states began enacting measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, all-white primaries, felony disenfranchisement laws, grandfather clauses, fraud and intimidation to keep African Americans from the polls.
Without the efforts of Black women like Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the pro-suffrage National Association of Colored Women, or writer and suffragist Adella Hunt Logan of the Black Tuskegee Women's Club for Black women, our right to vote wouldn’t have been secured with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To put that into perspective for you these rights for women of color were enacted only 56 years ago and granted almost a whole century after Black men.
What Can I Do?
Black women in particular voices are at stake, our freedoms are at stake and we must take action now.
Kamilah and I encourage all citizens especially women of color to call up local officials and senators in office, write letters and knock on doors to get this Freedom to Vote Act at the forefront of congresses agenda.
It is not enough to simply share a post on social media or have a conversation. That is a good start, but more tangible steps must be taken to ensure our rights are valued and heard.
To find out more information about the Freedom to Vote Act click here:https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act
To learn how to register to vote click here:
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Enacting change in your community?
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