Georgia: Biden’s Voting Rights Address Comes At “Pivotal Time In American History”

President Biden’s call for voting rights legislation
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ATLANTA – Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered speeches highlighting the importance of passing federal legislation to address unconstitutional anti-voter state laws as well as partisan, political maps that are designed too frequently to diminish the voting strength of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other organizations are currently challenging Georgia S.B. 202 and the Georgia congressional district map in federal court for violating the U.S. Constitution. Prior to the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Georgia would have needed to pre-clear these laws and maps with the U.S. Department of Justice before they went into effect to ensure they were not racially discriminatory and violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Shelby decision eviscerated that federal oversight authority.

The following statement is from SPLC Action Fund President and CEO Margaret Huang, who attended today’s address:

“The address by President Biden and Vice President Harris today comes at a pivotal time in American history. One year after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a crowd of extremists and white supremacists, we do not have to imagine the threat extreme partisanship and political violence poses to our democratic institutions – we have seen it.

“The president reminded us of this today: ‘we have to ensure January 6 doesn't mark the end of democracy but the renaissance for our democracy, where we stand up for the right to vote and have that vote counted fairly.’

He made clear the decision the U.S. Senate must make on pending voting right legislation: ‘Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch, I will fight for the right to vote, I will defend our democracy against all enemies foreign and, yes, domestic, and so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?’

“President Biden’s call for voting rights legislation is a welcome step. And just as the Senate rose to the occasion in the 1960s, strongly influenced by the civil rights heroes of that era, today’s Senate must defend the right to vote of all Americans by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“It is apt the president and vice president would whistle-stop in Georgia to lift up this essential legislation, particularly as groups on the ground here have long been leading the call for federal action on voting rights. It was appropriate that the speech took place on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, spotlighting the extreme efforts of the Georgia legislature to suppress the vote of African Americans, young people, people with disabilities and other communities of color.

“After the Civil War, Reconstruction amendments to the U.S. Constitution were violently opposed throughout the South. Over a century and a half later, threats to voting rights have not subsided here. Unfortunately, they have instead taken on different forms of oppression and suppression that still demand federal action.

“Federal legislation to advance civil rights and voting rights as well as anti-lynching bills have all been filibustered by U.S. Senators throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The past year has been no exception.

“The 2022 midterm elections are less than a year away, and maps determining political boundaries for the next decade are being drawn and approved at this very moment. Legislation to protect and strengthen democracy is too important to let die by procedural loophole. The U.S. Senate must act with the boldness that this moment in history demands.”

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