Michelle Obama Issues Juneteenth Marching Orders Against GOP Vote Suppression

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hOn Saturday, former First Lady Michelle Obama called on Americans to undertake urgent action in defense of the right to vote in the United States. Saturday is Juneteenth, a holiday — which is now an official federal observance — that commemorates the end of slavery. It corresponds to a date in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Texas, proclaiming the freeing of the slaves there. Now, as the former First Lady noted, Americans “have the opportunity” to safeguard voting rights, as Republicans in certain state legislatures attempt to enact suppressive new election restrictions.

Obama commented as follows:

‘Let’s celebrate #Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday by recognizing the generations of enslaved Black people who fought so hard for their freedom. One of the best ways to do that is by fortifying our sacred right to vote. Right now, we have the opportunity to enact voting reforms, expand voting rights, and stop dozens of voter suppression bills aimed at limiting access to the ballot box for people across the country by passing the #ForThePeopleAct. It’s up to each of us to work to protect our democracy and expand our voting rights. There’s too much on the line. Take action with @WhenWeAllVote this weekend. Call your senators and tell them to support the #ForThePeopleAct’

At present, the For the People Act is threatened in the Senate by the chamber’s filibuster rules, which demand the agreement of at least 60 Senators from the 100-member Senate before getting most legislation to a final vote. Because of the current party breakdown in the Senate, getting to 60 Senators would require at least 10 Republicans — and there’s been no indication of 10 imminent Republican defections from the party line.

At present, Republicans are largely opposing the legislation — although majorities of Americans support some key Democratic election reform priorities that are connected to the effort. According to a Vox report, over 60 percent of respondents in an April survey “supported requiring nonpartisan redistricting commissions, a 15-day early voting period for all federal elections, same-day registration for all eligible voters, automatic voter registration for all eligible voters, and giving every voter the option to vote by mail.” Besides the former First Lady’s push, others — like voting rights activist Stacey Abrams — have also called for Americans to call on their Senators to pass the For the People Act.