Advocates back anti-voter suppression bill
For The People Act would also limit influence of large donors
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on Boston Common Saturday afternoon in support of the For the People Act, S1/HR1, which would counter voter suppression and gerrymandering and limit money’s influence in politics.
The event coincided with the arrival of the Black Voters Matter Freedom Ride bus tour in the nation’s capital. Sixty years after the original Freedom Rides, where a multi-racial group of activists rode busses into the South to protest unconstitutional segregation, the fight to ensure all Americans have equitable access to civil rights, voting rights, and social and economic justice remain as important as ever.
“It is critically important that we do what we can, while we can, to help ensure that those votes are expanded, protected, and preserved — and that’s why we’re here today,” said Tanisha Sullivan, the president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP.
Sullivan equated the passage of S1 with the preservation of the core of American values and democracy.
Sullivan said, “Voting rights and access is not a partisan issue, but there are those who have made it a partisan issue.”
The bill was sidelined earlier the same week after Senate Republicans unanimously opposed the measure. However, the fight is far from over, as advocates of the For the People Act remain resolute and undeterred.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley gave the keynote address from steps in front of the State House, backed by a crowd of supporters holding signs.
“Those in power fear the power of representation and the power of the people,” said Pressley. “We have witnessed a precise, intentional and coordinated assault on our sacred right to vote from Republicans and corporate interests in Washington and statehouses around the nation.”
Cindy Rowe, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, told the Scope that the very dignity of the country is at stake in this critical moment.
“Our country owes [people] the dignity of being able to register to vote, to cast their ballots and have those ballots counted,” she said.
Rowe used her time in front of the crowd to call attention to the fact that many of the bills that aim to restrict voting access will hit traditionally excluded demographics the hardest.
Other speakers at the rally called opposition to the legislation a remnant of Jim Crow and a white supremacist attempt to disenfranchise Black, Indigenous, and other voters of color, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with limited socioeconomic resources who may be working multiple jobs. And while that struggle is occurring at a national scale, activists argue that local actions are needed.
Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, an organization that advocates for ethical representation in elections, brought attention to the VOTES Act in Massachusetts.
This measure would be an overhaul of statewide electoral reforms. It would expand early in-person voting options, implement same-day voter registration, establish voting by mail as a permanent option, and give eligible citizens who are incarcerated access to the ballot, among other measures intended to expand voting access.
“The fight for democracy is not just in Washington, D.C. It’s here in Boston,” said Foster, “let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
This article originally appeared in The Scope, a project of the Northeastern University School of Journalism.