Elders Call: Defend Our Voting Rights
The National Council of Elders (NCOE) Call: Prepare to Defend Our Voting Rights in 2020 Election
We, members of the National Council of Elders, were deeply involved in the great movements of the 1960s and ‘70s to advance American democracy, winning many important victories for freedom. One of the greatest of these victories was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after the non-violent actions of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Selma to Montgomery March, which were met with violent repression, killings, and brutal beatings.
The right and responsibility to vote in a free and fair election is an essential aspect of democracy. Yet that right has been weakened by two crucial and badly decided 5-4 verdicts of the Supreme Court:
The 2010 Citizens United decision to abolish decades of election law preventing great wealth from buying US elections on the grounds, among others, that corporations were “persons” entitled to “free speech.” [I would add, No corporation is “made in the Image of God.” Human beings are, and their right to shape the society they live in and the government that governs them is partly rooted in that sacred character. — AW]
The 2013 decision to cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act, the requirement for preclearance to pass new voting laws for jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brilliantly said, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
As we prepare for the national election of 2020, the Supreme Court has again attacked the right to cast a vote by refusing to allow an expansion of voting by mail in Wisconsin in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, the citizens of Wisconsin defended their right to vote by showing up at polling locations in huge numbers, despite the danger of sickness or death, similar to the courageous men and women of the South in 1964 and 1965.
We call upon all Americans to exercise this fundamental and essential right to vote. We call upon all Americans to demand the right to vote by mail. We call on all Americans to make clear we will not allow any attempt to steal the election by any means.
The president has threatened to use military force against the American people to halt the practice of free speech and free assembly. We are concerned about the danger that the current holders of power in the federal government may use anti-Constitutional force before or after the election on November 3 to maintain their power.
We call upon the American people to be alert to such danger and to meet it:
With a vast and vigorous turnout of voters, casting no doubt that pro-democracy forces have won the Presidency and both houses of Congress
With maintaining vigilance if the current president is voted out of power until he is well gone in January
With preparation by resilient grass-roots groups to be ready to apply broad and deep civil resistance, should a usurpation of our democracy be thrust upon us?
Come hell or high fever, we must vote – and we shall!
National Council of Elders Members: Ms. Rachele Agoyo, Ms. Dorothy Aldridge, Rev. Dorsey Blake, Mr. Lewis Brandon, Ms. Candie Carawan, Ms. Mandy Carter, Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rev. John Fife, Ms. Aljosie Aldrich Harding, Dr. Gloria Aneb House, Dr. Shea Howell, Dr. Dolores Huerta, Mr. Phil Hutchings, Ms. Joyce Hobson Johnson, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Mr. Frank Joyce, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Phil Lawson, Dr. Catherine Meeks, Mr. Gus Newport, Ms. Suzanne Pharr, Ms. Lyn Pyle, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ms. Frances Reid, Ms. Kathy Sanchez, Mr. Charles Sherrod, Ms. Shirley Sherrod, Dr. G. Zoharah Simmons, Friar Louis Vitale, OFM, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mr. Junius Williams, Mr. Bob Wing, Rev. Janet Wolf.
Deceased Founding Members: Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Vincent Harding, Father Paul Mayer, Mr. Ron Scott.