WASHINGTON – Diane Howard from Cleveland traveled to the nation’s capital with hundreds of other women to urge Congress to pass an election overhaul and overturn new state laws that restrict access to the vote.
A community activist for half a century, Howard said it was not the first time she had seen voting rights under attack. “What we did in the ’60s was we continued to protest,” the Ohio woman said. “A lot of voting rights were curtailed in the 1960s.”
At 71, she was the oldest woman to participate in the campaign of the poor, entitled “A Season of Nonviolent Direct Moral Action,” before the United States Supreme Court on Monday.
U.S. Capitol Police officers arrested about 100 of the women – but not Howard – for civil disobedience to the March, including the Poor Campaign heads of state from North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Maine.
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The protest follows the recent arrest of Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was arrested Thursday by Capitol Police. Beatty led a march towards the Atrium of the Senate Hart Office Building at denounce the infringement of voting rights. “Rest assured this is just the start,” she said. said in a declaration.
For the campaign of the poor, this was the first event of a weeks push calling on Congress to end Senate filibustering, pass voting rights legislation, raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, and pass a program to expand elections and rights. vote called For The People Act.
On the steps of the court, the co-chair of the campaign of the poor, the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, called on Congress to act on voting rights, warning that “our democracy is in danger”. Protesters participating in the The Women’s Moral March included women leaders representing 42 states.
“In this time, when our voting rights are under attack and economic justice is denied, we must, and we are, denounce the immoral obstructionism of Congress,” said Theoharis, who was also arrested on Monday.
The march was part of a nationwide attempt by Democratic lawmakers, social justice organizations and activists to protect voting rights as Republicans in state legislatures prepare to introduce and pass restrictive voting laws in response to the 2020 presidential election won by President Joe Biden.
Maureen Taylor, President of the State of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, said she had seen Republican state officials in her state introduce dozens of restrictive election laws.
“The right to vote is sacred,” she said.
In this time, when our voting rights are under attack and economic justice denied, we must, and we are, speak out against the immoral obstructionism of Congress.
– Reverend Liz Theoharis, who was arrested during the march
Michigan lawmakers presented a sweep package of 39 bills in March that would restrict the use of early voting boxes and require voters to vote with a provisional ballot if they do not have photo ID with them at their polling station.
“There is a level of fear that every American must have right now,” Taylor said.
She added that the US Senate should get rid of filibuster and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which reinstate a pre-authorization formula set by the 1965 Voting Rights Act which was overturned by a 2013 Supreme Court decision.
The prior authorization formula required states with a history of implementing discriminatory electoral laws, such as Arizona, Louisiana, Virginia and Georgia, among others, to get federal approval before making changes to voting laws.
the Brennan Center, found that in May, Republican state lawmakers had introduced 389 bills with restrictive voting provisions in 48 states. Of these, 22 bills have been enacted, with 61 bills in 18 states still pending.
Texas Democrats also fled the state after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to pass restrictive voting legislation.
These state Democrats will have to stay out of Texas for several weeks to prevent a quorum from blocking the special assembly. In the meantime, they have spent their time lobbying Congressional Democrats to pass the overhaul of the federal election.
However, the future of the bill is very uncertain – it was passed by the House, but was blocked by Republicans. in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has pledged to resubmit the bill in the Senate, where he will not only have to find the support of 10 Republicans but also bring in the senator. . Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who has publicly expressed his opposition, to reaching the 60 vote threshold to advance legislation.
As protesters marched outside the Hart Senate office building on Monday, the Senate Rules Committee held a voting rights hearing in Georgia, with testimony from Senator Raphael Warnock, along with other Georgian officials. This was the committee’s first field hearing in 20 years.
During the protest in Washington, JaMelle Hill, of Kathleen, Georgia, said the recent election law passed in her state was hurting not only voters but low-income people as well. It is more difficult for them to have stable housing and to obtain identity cards like a driver’s license, she said.
“Poverty affects everyone,” she said, especially children and women of color.
The Urban Institute, a left-wing think tank, has projected that the poverty rate this year will be 13.7%, or about 1 in 7 Americans “may have annual family resources below the poverty line.” In 2018, the US Census estimated that 38.1 million people in the United States lived in poverty, a rate of 11.8%.
“What I saw was a denial of rights in Georgia,” Hill said. “It was a denial of our civil rights, there was a denial of our human rights and there was a denial of our voting rights. “
Throughout the year, Congressional Democrats hosted several hearings on voting rights.
The Biden administration has also raised concerns about states passing restrictive voting laws. The White House recently led the Ministry of Justice to bring an action against the new Georgian law.
And during a visit to his alma mater, Howard University, Vice President Kamala Harris ad that the Democratic National Committee would spend $ 25 million on a campaign to protect voting rights.
On Monday, protesters for the right to vote formed a circle in front of the Hart Senate office building as Capitol Police officers pulled out plastic ties and arrested them one by one.
“Forward together,” shouted the crowd as the protesters were led away. “Not a step back.”