Activists, advocates ramp up pressure on Democratic lawmakers over voting rights
Voting rights activists gathered in downtown Albany today to urge passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.
A small but vocal crowd gathered stood under the marquee at the Palace Theatre across from the Leo O'Brien Federal Building, to urge elected officials to "do whatever it takes" to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
The package includes fair redistricting standards, citizen-funded elections and voter protection against discrimination. Rosemary Bishop is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady.
"My spirit is not dampened by the rain today. Because even as our government seems gridlocked in partisan politics, we the people are here to show them that this is what democracy looks like," said Bishop. "Yeah. That's right. It's no mistake that we're standing near the federal building in Albany behind me. We're here to urge Senator Schumer to do everything in his power to pass the Freedom to Vote Act."
Bishop says the Majority Leader and virtually all his Democratic colleagues support voting rights legislation. The activists say there are over 300 laws passed and proposed in 48 states aimed at suppressing the vote. Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Dr. Alice Green says she will not rest until there is universal suffrage.
"And I don't want you to either," Green said. "Don't be fooled by the people who don't want to talk about giving the right to vote, people who are incarcerated, Maine and Vermont do it and the world hasn't fallen apart. We can do it in your state, we can do it in the rest of the country. They must have the right to vote because the system has taken too many people from my community, incarcerated them and turn the time back to almost a period of enslavement, because that's what it looks like."
A Schumer staffer attended the event and a letter to Schumer was passed around for everyone to sign. The activists also directed their message to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Paul Tonko.
Gillibrand’s office responded to a request for comment in an emailed statement which says in part “Too many Americans face unnecessary and unjust hurdles when it comes to casting their ballots,” and “Congress needs to do more to protect this constitutional right.”
Tonko addressed the issue while speaking with WAMC News Friday in Amsterdam.
"We're at a stalemate, but I'm hoping that we can utilize the filibuster or reconciliation in a way that gets us to where we need to be," Tonko said. "This is the fundamental reform that we need this year. Without voting rights advocacy and results in statute. We're, our democracy is weakened. And so the John Lewis act, HR Four and all of these need to be addressed in a way that provides for access to the polls and a number of reforms that address the fairness and the equity of the voting system. I mean, that's the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Democrats in Washington hoped a compromise bill crafted by moderate West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin would gain Republican support, but a GOP filibuster last month doomed the effort. That led to more calls on Democrats to abolish the filibuster.