We risk our lives for the right to vote
A year ago, the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis wrote a farewell essay just before his death:
“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting into what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are essential. Voting is the most powerful agent of nonviolent change you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
For Lewis, “good trouble, necessary trouble” meant risking his life to lead the Bloody Sunday vote march in Alabama on March 7, 1965. Governor George Wallace to “use whatever measures are necessary” to stop the march, brutally assaulted the demonstrators.
Despite a broken skull, Lewis spoke to reporters before going to hospital and called on President Lyndon Johnson to take action in Alabama. Media coverage inspired protests in 80 cities across the country. The result: President Johnson enacted the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965, after it was passed by Congress.
The fight for the right to vote continues
Today I am a member of the Texas House Democratic Caucus and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, risking our lives to protect voting rights by leaving our state on July 12 to prevent the passage of the Republican legislative onslaught. on access to the ballot boxes.
As an Associated Press analysis explains:
“If the proposals pass, it will become more difficult – and even, at times, legally riskier – to vote in Texas, a state that already has some of the most restrictive election laws in the country. … The state’s Republican Attorney General has spent millions of dollars investigating electoral fraud since last year, but has only revealed a handful of cases in a state where more than 11 million people have voted in November.
After we arrived in Washington, DC, to urge Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act to anticipate the Texas Voting Rights Suppression Bill and Rights Restriction Laws votes enacted in at least 18 other states, my office received about 20 death threats before advising my staff to stop passing them on to me.
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Here is just an example: I have been called the N word several times. One person wrote that he hopes my plane crashes. I was told to eat feces and die. Another person threatened to come after me and lynch me.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott told a Texas TV station:
“What the House of Representatives can do, what the President can do, is call for these members to be arrested. In addition to this, however, I can and will continue to convene extraordinary session after extraordinary session after extraordinary session until the elections next year. … As soon as they return to the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be locked inside the Texas Capitol until they do their job.
I am very worried that my 20 year old son, who shares my name and often drives my car with license plates when I am away, will be arrested because the police are looking for me. Routine traffic stops in America are never routine when it comes to black men, so I told him to stop driving my car to keep him safe.
A vote suppression program
Additionally, the Texas Democrats who stay with me in a hotel in Washington, DC are suffering financially because we maintain separate full-time jobs to support our families. Unfortunately, many of us cannot work remotely because our work or profession does not allow it. (If you believe in our fight to protect the right to vote of every American and every Texan, you can donate to us.)
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The U.S. House of Representatives already passed the For the People Act in March, but Republicans obstructed the bill in June to prevent the Senate from passing it. However, the Senate could still pass it if Democrats voted to eliminate or make an exception to filibuster.
Ironically, for more than 50 years between 1891 and 1942, Southern Democrats used filibuster to block voting reform, anti-lynching and anti-election bills designed to allow black Americans access. by ballot.
In a bipartisan spirit, after being elected to Texas House in 2016, I made it a point to sit next to a Republican member upstairs in the House, Rep. Cecil Bell, from County R -Waller, rather than a fellow Democrat, so I was able to get to know him and understand his point of view.
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But I can never accept the Republican vote suppression program with blind loyalty to Donald Trump, whose slogan “America First” is clearly a dog-whistle to white supremacists. In fact, members of the Ku Klux Klan marched with an “America First” banner in the 1920s, and the Klan created a piece with the slogans “America First” and “Preserve Racial Purity” on its face to celebrate the centenary. from its foundation in 1965..
I urge the Senate to pass the law for the people before their summer recess begins this month. It would be a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Friday if President Joe Biden could sign a Voting Rights Restoration Bill on the same date 56 years later.
If that doesn’t happen, we’ll move to another location outside of Texas and return to Washington, DC, when Congress does so in September to honor John Lewis’ legacy of voting rights by continuing to create “good ones.” trouble, necessary trouble ”.
Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, is a Texas State Representative and Treasurer of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.