(Washington, D.C.) –President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Atlanta Tuesday that focused on the recently erected barriers to voting rights at the state level and the urgency of passing critical federal voting rights legislation.
The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“Black people have faced barriers to voting far longer than we have been free to vote. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, our country for a time moved closer to the light of a free and fair democracy, only to be dragged back into the shadows with the gutting of the Act by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder. That decision and others, along with Congress’ failure to pass new federal voting rights legislation, have opened the door to a flood of new voter suppression measures and the erosion of democratic institutions.
“With each passing day without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, we are seeing lawmakers from Georgia, Texas, and other states pass restrictions that intentionally and disproportionately target communities of color, intent on suppressing their votes and silencing their voices. Their actions are an affront to democracy and must be rebuked. But we have seen that these actions can only be reversed in the near term through federal voting rights legislation. The courts and other political processes are insufficient on their own. That is why we so urgently need the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. These bills would restore voting rights protections and serve as a bulwark against new and emerging threats to democracy, ensuring that voting is accessible to every eligible American, regardless of where they live.
“For the past year, we have urged the Biden administration to join us as a vocal partner in this fight by using its bully pulpit more aggressively and doing whatever is in their power to secure passage of this critical legislation. President Biden and Vice President Harris did just that today, in compelling speeches declaring their support for changing Senate rules that threaten to derail our shared agenda of protecting voters and preserving democracy. As this fight nears a climax in Congress, their support is a welcome development. This announcement honors the requests from the Lawyers’ Committee and allied civil rights organizations, who have demanded that the filibuster not stand in the way of progress.
“In today’s polarized political environment, changing Senate rules may require a party-line vote. But voting rights is not a partisan issue; historically, leaders from both major political parties joined together to protect our most fundamental right. These bills will benefit all Americans regardless of their political affiliation and will make our democracy stronger in the process. When U.S. Senators convene to vote this week on rule reforms to allow voting rights legislation to advance, they must not fail. Democracy is on the line, and history will be their judge.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.