MIL-OSI USA: Senator Reverend Warnock Urges Immediate Congressional Action to Protect Ballot Access Ahead of 2024 Election

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US Senate News:

Source: United States Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock – Georgia

Today, Senator Reverend Warnock testified in front of the Senate Judiciary committee urging swift action to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act

Senator Reverend Warnock held up his home state of Georgia as a clear example of the consequences of Congress’ inaction on protecting our democracy; the state has enacted some of the most extreme voter suppression laws in the country

Senator Reverend Warnock is the leading Senate champion for protecting the sacred right to vote

Senator Reverend Warnock: “As the first Black Senator from Georgia, let me put it plainly: I would not be here without the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its protections that enabled millions of Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy”

Official U.S. Senate photo by Daniel Rios

WATCH: Senator Reverend Warnock’s full testimony from Senate Judiciary committee hearing – VIDEO HERE

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) testified in front of the Senate Judiciary committee to urge swift action to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act at a hearing entitled “The Right Side of History: Protecting Voting Rights in America.” The Senator outlined the consequences of extreme voter suppression laws in Georgia and across the country, and the urgency of passing federal voting rights legislation as a solution to these anti-democratic efforts.

“As the first Black senator from Georgia, let me be very clear today: I would not be here without the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its protections that enabled millions of Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy. But a series of Supreme Court decisions have gutted preclearance, a very important and powerful tool, and other provisions of the Voting Rights Act, enabling state lawmakers to roll back voting rights across our country,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. “I have seen the results firsthand in my State of Georgia, I don’t need anybody to tell me about it, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. After the 2020 elections, partisan actors in the state legislature passed a sweeping voter registration law, SB 202 that made voting harder for thousands of Georgians.”

The Senator’s efforts come as partisan state officials in Georgia have attempted to interfere with local election boards, fueling election denialism and harassment against local election officials. It also comes just two weeks after Georgia lawmakers advanced a bill to end automatic voter registration. Additionally, the announcement comes two weeks after Senators Warnock and Chairman Durbin (D-IL) were joined by their colleagues to reintroduce the landmark John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and strengthen democracy by reestablishing preclearance for jurisdictions with a pattern of voting rights violations, protecting minority communities subject to discriminatory voting practices, and defending voters from election subversion. Over the summer, the Senator reintroduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which would set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in, and includes their updated legislation to prevent election subversion.

In 2023, state legislators across the country introduced over 350 bills in 47 states that would restrict voting.

Since Georgia’s S.B. 202, was enacted, according to from ProPublica, “about 89,000 of 100,000” challenges to voter registrations across the state of Georgia “were submitted by just six right-wing activists,” highlighting the urgent need for action as these challenges burden already-overworked election officials and undermine confidence in elections.

Select excerpts from Senator Reverend Warnock’s remarks at today’s Senate Judiciary committee hearing:

“Across the country, the right to vote is under assault, and we must urgently pass voting rights legislation. I had the honor of serving as John Lewis’ pastor; I presided over his funeral. But while I was his pastor, I’m very clear that he was the mentor. And two weeks ago, I was deeply honored to introduce with chair Durbin, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, legislation named in his honor to protect the right to vote for all Americans.”

“As the first Black senator from Georgia, let me be very clear today: I would not be here without the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its protections that enabled millions of Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy. But a series of Supreme Court decisions have gutted preclearance, a very important and powerful tool, and other provisions of the Voting Rights Act, enabling state lawmakers to roll back voting rights across our country.”

“I have seen the results firsthand in my State of Georgia, I don’t need anybody to tell me about it, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. After the 2020 elections, partisan actors in the state legislature passed a sweeping voter registration law, SB 202 that made voting harder for thousands of Georgians, and let me offer just a few examples. I wish I had more time. After a record number of Georgians voted by mail, SB 202 made it harder for voters to request a mail in ballot while also reducing the number of drop boxes to return them. I wonder why.

“[SB 202] shortened the time for runoff elections, leading to fewer early voting days, which led to lines that were hours long. I wonder why.

“Now, some argue that high voter turnout means there is no voter suppression. So, let’s talk about that. Let me be very clear: People across the country turned out in the rain and the cold and endured hours long lines, and not in every neighborhood, in some neighborhoods. We’re entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts. It’s a fact that people of color, Black people stay in lines longer just to vote. But these people staying in line not because there’s no voter suppression, they just refuse to have their voices silenced. I saw this firsthand in 2022, when Georgia State officials tried to eliminate Saturday voting, they argued it wasn’t allowed in part because of a state holiday originally celebrating Robert E. Lee. And so I sued the state and I won. They appealed and I won again. We went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, where I won again. You would think that state election officials in Georgia would have been busy getting ready for the runoff election. Instead, they were spending our resources appealing the decision for folks to be able to vote on Saturday. I wonder why.”

“70,000 people voted that day. And if you only knew that number, you might think that voting is easy as some of my colleagues want to suggest. What you would miss is how hard we had to fight for them to be able to show up. The fact that people voted does not mean all people had an equal opportunity to vote. And a recent analysis by the Brennan Center shows that since the 2013 Shelby decision, the turnout gap between white and non-white Americans has grown. We’re all entitled to our own opinion, these are the facts: the racial gap has widened. And it has especially widened into places once covered by the Voting Rights Act’spreclearance requirements.”

“…let me say that it’s true, all of us celebrate John Lewis. A couple of weeks ago, many folks made that annual pilgrimage to Selma. You cannot remember John Lewis and dismember his legacy at the same. If you celebrate John Lewis, support what he supported. He supported the legislation in front of us. The Freedom to Vote Act was written by John Lewis. If you celebrate John Lewis passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

WATCH video of Senator Reverend Warnock’s full testimony at today’s Senate Judiciary committee hearing HERE.

See a transcript below of Senator Reverend Warnock’s full testimony at today’s Senate Judiciary committee hearing:

“Thank you so very much Chair Durbin and Ranking Member Graham for inviting me here today.

“Across the country, the right to vote is under assault, and we must urgently pass voting rights legislation. I had the honor of serving as John Lewis’ pastor; I presided over his funeral. But while I was his pastor, I’m very clear that he was the mentor. And two weeks ago, I was deeply honored to introduce with chair Durbin, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, legislation named in his honor to protect the right to vote for all Americans.

“As the first Black senator from Georgia, let me be very clear today: I would not be here without the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its protections that enabled millions of Americans to have their voices heard in our democracy. But a series of Supreme Court decisions have gutted preclearance, a very important and powerful tool, and other provisions of the Voting Rights Act, enabling state lawmakers to roll back voting rights across our country.

“I have seen the results firsthand in my State of Georgia, I don’t need anybody to tell me about it, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. After the 2020 elections, partisan actors in the state legislature passed a sweeping voter registration law, SB 202 that made voting harder for thousands of Georgians, and let me offer just a few examples. I wish I had more time. After a record number of Georgians voted by mail, SB 202 made it harder for voters to request a mail in ballot while also reducing the number of drop boxes to return them. I wonder why.

“[SB 202] shortened the time for runoff elections, leading to fewer early voting days, which led to lines that were hours long. I wonder why.

“It allowed a single person, think about this, a single individual to make unlimited mass challenges to voters’ registration. Who’s changing the law in that case? Who’s changing the way we practiced our laws and the way we’ve allowed people to vote? A single individual to make unlimited mass challenges to voters’ registration and in 2022, this allowed just six right wing activists to challenge the registrations of 89,000 Georgia voters. 100,000 voter challenges, 89,000 of them put forward by six right wing activists.

“And they have not stopped there: This year, a member of the State Election Board proposed ending no excuse vote by mail and a Georgia State Senate Committee voted to end automatic voter registration. I find it very interesting that the folks who say we need to make sure that there is integrity in our system, and I believe in that, and who put forward voter ID [legislation], which I support, I think often it’s too restrictive. But it’s interesting that the folks who say we got to make sure that we verify people’s voter ID would then show up as opposed to voter motor laws, where you’re using the bureaucracy and the regiment of getting a driver’s license as the basis for getting registered to vote. Why would you get rid of that if you believe in voter identification?

“Sadly, Georgia is not unique. Last year, lawmakers introduced over 350 restrictive voting bills in 47 states. Many of these efforts are only possible because of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

“Now, some argue that high voter turnout means there is no voter suppression. So, let’s talk about that. Let me be very clear: People across the country turned out in the rain and the cold and endured hours long lines, and not in every neighborhood, in some neighborhoods. We’re entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts. It’s a fact that people of color, Black people stay in lines longer just to vote. But these people staying in line not because there’s no voter suppression, they just refuse to have their voices silenced. I saw this firsthand in 2022, when Georgia State officials tried to eliminate Saturday voting, they argued it wasn’t allowed in part because of a state holiday originally celebrating Robert E. Lee. And so, I sued the state and I won. They appealed and I won again. We went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court, where I won again. You would think that state election officials in Georgia would have been busy getting ready for the runoff election. Instead, they were spending our resources appealing the decision for folks to be able to vote on Saturday. I wonder why.

“70,000 people voted that day. And if you only knew that number, you might think that voting is easy as some of my colleagues want to suggest. What you would miss is how hard we had to fight for them to be able to show up. The fact that people voted does not mean all people had an equal opportunity to vote. And a recent analysis by the Brennan Center shows that since the 2013 Shelby decision, the turnout gap between white and non-white Americans has grown. We’re all entitled to our own opinion, these are the facts: the racial gap has widened. And it has especially widened into places once covered by the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirements.

“In 1965, and over the decades since, Congress has repeatedly reaffirmed the Voting Rights Ac ton a bipartisan basis. In 2006, this very body reauthorized the Voting Rights Act by a vote of 98 to zero. President George W. Bush, a Republican was president.

“Before us is the opportunity to advance that legacy by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Actand the Freedom to Vote Act. The Freedom to Vote Act, which many of my colleagues here, including Senators Klobuchar and Padilla and I introduced, would create national minimum standards for voting in partisan gerrymandering, and root out the influence of dark money. 

“Meanwhile, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act, including preclearance to prevent future attacks on our right to vote.

“This should not be a partisan issue, the right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It preserves the framework in which all debate takes place. These bills would ensure that every eligible American has a voice in the direction of our country, from working families who need to vote after hours to rural voters who need to vote by mail.

“In conclusion, and nobody believes a pastor when he says ‘in conclusion’, let me say that it’s true, all of us celebrate John Lewis. A couple of weeks ago, many folks made that annual pilgrimage to Selma. You cannot remember John Lewis and dismember his legacy at the same. If you celebrate John Lewis, support what he supported. He supported the legislation in front of us. The Freedom to Vote Act was written by John Lewis. If you celebrate John Lewis passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

MIL OSI USA News