Raphael Warnock Invokes John Lewis In Urgent Plea To Pass Voting Rights

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This week, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) spoke in the Senate about the imperative of passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would re-establish rules requiring approval by federal authorities before the enactment of certain changes to the conducting of elections. The hope would be to stop certain instances of voter suppression before they even start, and Attorney General Merrick Garland has shared how when the pre-approval — otherwise known as pre-clearance — rules were in place, “thousands” of suppressive moves were blocked by federal officials. Warnock invoked his personal connection with the late John Lewis, who was a parishioner at the church where Warnock is a pastor, in making his case for the new bill.

As Warnock put it:

‘We are witnessing right now what happens to our democracy without the protections of pre-clearance and the other vital provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The lack of robust voting rights protections has ramifications for every American, as we’ve seen efforts ramp up this year at passing sweeping, state-level voter suppression laws — not laws that only impact Black people and people of color, to be sure. But also students, seniors, whomever certain politicians are afraid will somehow get in the way of their craven march to power. And so this bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, is about Congress finally doing its job.’

Bills that have been enacted this year in the name of election security contain draconian provisions that appear focused on targeting non-Republican voters in marginalized communities. In Georgia, for instance, state officials recently banned mobile polling places — which were used last year in the Atlanta area, and concurrently, Georgia officials also imposed harsh restrictions on the numbers of drop boxes for mail-in ballots that individual counties can have. Now, total drop boxes per county are capped at one per early voting site or 100,000 registered voters, whichever number is smaller. Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, is set to have to go from the 38 drop boxes it had last November to just eight in upcoming elections.

Rules along these lines, fashioned in part to respond to systematic election integrity problems that don’t actually exist, make voting more difficult, especially for marginalized communities. In the Senate, Warnock pointedly added as follows:

‘Voting rights are not just another issue. Voting rights are preservative of all other rights. Voting rights are about the foundation of our democracy. And I believe that if the world’s greatest deliberative body can’t find a way forward to get this done, history will judge us harshly and rightly so.’

Watch the Georgia Senator’s remarks below: