A group of prominent state and city elected officials held a press conference last Thursday at City Hall Park calling on Sen. Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden to get voting rights legislation over the finish line before it’s too late.
State and city officials, including NY Attorney General Letitia James, NYS Sens. Alessandra Biaggi, John Liu, Robert Jackson and Zellnor Myrie, NYS Assembly Members Robert Carroll and Andrew Hevesi, and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams delivered a message to Sen. Schumer and President Biden that it is time to double down on passing the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as soon as possible, and no later than December.
“Across the country, we are seeing persistent attacks on voting rights and freedoms,” James said. “American citizens – especially people of color, low-income communities and students – are having their constitutional right to vote stolen, and we cannot allow this unjust disenfranchisement to continue.
“While my office has taken great measures to protect fair and accessible voting in New York, attacks on this basic right in any state are a threat to democracy in every state,” she added. “Now is the time to act to protect the rights of the people and pass this critical legislation.”
According to Fair Elections for NY (FENY), a coalition of 200-plus organizations that believe Americans deserve a responsive, accountable government, American democracy is facing an unprecedented assault.
It said Congress is running out of time to pass critical voting reform bills in time for new legislation to be implemented for the 2022 elections.
“If the bills aren’t passed soon, Americans could be stuck with voter suppression and partisan maps for the 2022 elections,” said FENY, which organized the press conference.
It said the Freedom to Vote Act will: Set national standards for voters to safely and freely cast their ballots; prevent partisan political maps; ban dark money and lessen the influence of big money in politics; ensure that trusted local election officials count every vote; and prevent state lawmakers from sabotaging elections in order to take and hold power.
While a majority of votes are there in the House and Senate for the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, FENY said the bills haven’t passed yet due to Republican obstruction.
The elected officials at the press conference urged Democrats to do whatever it takes to pass these bills.
“As Democrats, we said we would do something different. We said if we got into power, we would make sure we would not only have a democracy that holds, but we would strengthen it,” said Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants. “That means the Freedom to Vote Act must get passed, and it must pass now.”
“New York is at a pivotal moment in our fight for voting rights,” said Biaggi. “Just this month, we failed to pass ballot proposals that would have secured crucial measures to protect our voting rights in our State.
“Unfortunately, the GOP has been spending heavily to usurp voting rights in all 50 states,” she added. “It is absolutely necessary for the Democratic Party to open their eyes to the urgency of this moment and strengthen their commitment to securing voting rights for all Americans.
“President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer must stand their ground and fight to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act,” Biaggi continued. “Our democracy depends on it.”
“The right to vote is one of the most basic rights and founding principles of our nation,” Hevesi said. “It is absolutely imperative that Congress pass the Freedom to Vote Act immediately in order to ensure our 2022 elections are open to all, fair, and protected.”
“The right to vote is part of the very fabric of our democracy. Any threats to our voting rights will be challenged vigorously. We must not let wickedness in high places overcome the will of our people,” said Derek Perkinson, NYS Field Director of the National Action Network. “We are calling on the President, Senate Majority Leader and all of Congress to deliver these two bills before it’s too late.”
“For four years, the previous federal administration led an attack on voting rights and our democracy, culminating in an insurrection on our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to overturn our election. Protecting every citizen’s right to vote is critical to the existence of our democracy, but time is running out. We must extinguish the ongoing efforts to roll back voting rights and steal elections through partisan gerrymandering and dark money,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, who was unable to attend the event but provided a statement of support.
“President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer must act quickly to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect our democracy from any further damage,” she said.