UCC leader marches on to protect voting rights
Our Faith, Our Vote in the United Church of Christ isn’t just about participating in the election cycle. It’s also about taking action to protect and that right to vote.
That’s why, on the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington, the director of the UCC advocacy office in D.C. marched in the streets of the nation’s capital on Aug. 28.
Sandy Sorensen joined other interfaith leaders and voting rights activists Saturday morning in March On for Washington and Voting Rights.
Thousands gathered in a procession to the National Mall, demanding federal legislation to protect and expand access to the ballot. The marchers also advocated for D.C. statehood and a number of social justice issues. Among them were increasing the minimum wage, eliminating student loan debt and ending gun violence.
“Many of the signs carried during the march reflected the reality that we are in fact moving backwards on voting rights, contrary to the trajectory of the nation’s history, which has been to expand voting rights,” Sorensen said.
“The wave of attacks on voting rights in the form of state legislative actions this year heightens the need for action and engagement. March participants, including many students and student organizations, were keenly aware of the upcoming 2022 midterm election year and the impact restrictive voting rights laws could have on next year’s election.”
Restoring, protecting rights
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
But, as march organizers noted, Republican-led state legislatures across the country are still trying to pass laws to make it more difficult to vote. In 2021 more than 400 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 49 states.
Voting rights advocates want the U.S. Senate to pass the legislation named for Lewis, and another measure that would overhaul the nation’s voting laws. Currently the For the People Act is blocked by a Republican filibuster.
What laws would do
“The Senate has twice failed to bring the For the People Act to a floor vote, and has yet to take up Voting Rights Act,” Sorensen said. “The For the People Act is a package of critical democracy reforms, including campaign finance reform addressing the disparate power of corporate money in campaigns, redistricting practices, provisions to expand voting access – including automatic voter registration and same day registration, countering state restrictive voter identification requirements and blocking faulty voter registration purges. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would repair critical damage to the 1965 Voting Rights Act resulting from the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby decision.
“This work is well in keeping with the UCC Our Faith, Our Vote campaign, which extends well beyond nonpartisan faith engagement in the electoral process, to the ongoing work of building and strengthening the democratic process. This engagement is essential every year, not just in critical election years.
“What particularly struck me is that while the march certainly honored the decades and decades of work for voting rights, the legacies of leaders like John Lewis and Shirley Chisholm, there was very much a sense that we have not and will not arrive at a fair and just democratic process – it requires our steadfast engagement to bend the arc in that direction.”
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