The voting rights struggle: State lawmakers report on where things stand

‘Our democracy is in peril’: Women risk arrest at D.C. Moral Monday protest

Photo: Ariana Figueroa

WASHINGTON—Diane Howard of Cleveland traveled to the nation’s capital with hundreds of other women to urge Congress to pass an elections overhaul and undo new state laws that restrict voting access.

A community activist for half a century, Howard said that this is not the first time she’s seen voting rights under attack. “What we did in the ‘60s is we kept protesting,” the Ohio woman said. “A lot of voter rights were restricted in the ‘60s.”

At 71, she was the oldest woman participating in the Poor People’s Campaign protest, titled “A Season of Nonviolent Moral Direct Action,” in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

U.S. Capitol Police officers arrested about 100 of the women—although not Howard—for civil disobedience at the march, including Poor People’s Campaign state leaders from North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Maine.

The protest followed the recent arrest of Rep. Joyce Beatty, (D-Ohio), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was taken into custody by Capitol Police Thursday. Beatty led a march to the Senate Hart Office Building atrium to speak out against the assault on voting rights. “Be assured that this is just the beginning,” she said in a statement.

For the Poor People’s Campaign, this was the first event in a weeks-long push calling on Congress to end the Senate filibuster, pass voting rights legislation, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and pass an elections and voting rights expansion package called the “For The People Act.”

On the steps of the court, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, called on Congress to move on voting rights, warning that “our democracy is in peril.” Protestors taking part in 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 being denied, we must, and so we are, calling out the immoral obstructionism of Congress,” said Theoharis, who was also arrested 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 move to introduce and pass restrictive voting laws in response to the 2020 presidential election won by President Joe Biden.

Maureen Taylor, state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, said she has seen Republican state representatives in her state introduce dozens of restrictive voting laws.

“The right to vote is sacred,” she said.

Michigan lawmakers introduced a sweeping package of 39 bills in March that would restrict the use of early voting drop boxes and require voters to cast ballots with a provisional ballot if they do not have a photo ID with them at their polling place.

“There’s a level of fear that every American needs to possess at this moment,” Taylor said. Read more

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