On this Martin Luther King Day, we call on everyone to advocate for one of the most crucial pieces of voting rights legislation ever, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
Republican senators have persisted for months in opposition to both the Freedom to Vote Act (the current version of the For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (the reauthorization of the longstanding Voting Rights Act, with provisions that would restore protections recently gutted by the Supreme Court). Republican obstructionists have refused even to allow either bill to come up for debate. So late last week the House took a bill the Senate had already passed, added both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, renamed it the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, and sent it back to the Senate. This means that the Senate can no longer simply ignore it.
For the first time, this crucial voting rights legislation can bypass procedural motions to open debate and go straight to the Senate floor.
Debate on H.R. 5746, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, is now scheduled to begin when the Senate reconvenes at noon on Tuesday, January 18, with a vote expected on Wednesday.
BACKGROUND: Burr’s and Tillis’s Records on Voting Rights
Congress has reauthorized the Voting Rights Act five times, each time with strong bipartisan support. The most recent Voting Rights Act, signed into law by George W. Bush, passed with unanimous votes in the Senate – including that of our own Richard Burr, who stated: “Voting rights ensure the integrity of our electoral process and guarantee all Americans have the opportunity to participate in this process.” (See his full statement here.)
Thom Tillis, however, has a rather sordid history when it comes to voting rights. In 2013, as Speaker of the state House in the NC General Assembly, Tillis shepherded passage of one of the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country – the one that was subsequently found to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” in its attempt to disenfranchise minority voters.
ACTION: Call Burr & Tillis Jan 17-19 to Support H.R. 5746
Now is the time to flood our senators’ offices with calls. Every call is recorded. Our goal is to make our senators see and document their constituents’ overwhelming support for voting rights — and to hear our demands that they do the right thing.
Our country is at a crossroads. Every member of Congress who fails to stand up and protect the freedom to vote now will contribute to an irreversible unraveling of American democracy.
“My name is ____ and I live in [NAME OF TOWN], North Carolina. I’m joining with concerned citizens all over North Carolina and all over the country in calling on you to do the right thing and vote to SUPPORT H.R. 5746, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Free and fair elections – the very foundation of our democracy – are now in danger. At least 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting access to voting. And more than 440 bills that restrict voting access were introduced in 49 states last year. It’s clear by now we desperately need voting protections at the federal level. The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act will protect our right to vote, prevent voter suppression, and protect the sanctity of our elections. I urge you to vote YES on H.R. 5746, the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Your vote on this will go down in history as your choice to support or weaken American democracy.”
For Burr, you might wish to add: “I applaud your previous vote to support the last Voting Rights Act reauthorization, along with the unanimous vote of your Senate colleagues. To stand up for what’s right when others oppose you is harder. I urge you to act with integrity and continue your support, even when others do not.”
Mobilize your friends, neighbors, colleagues, family and wider community to contact their senators with this message. Only with a massive united voice do we have a chance of passing these voting rights protections and prevent our democracy from pulling apart at the seams.