Kierra Johnson, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director, has issued a statement on the precarious fate of our voting rights, and upcoming actions related to various Democracy bills. In the interests of our community, OUTvoices is publishing Johnson's statement here in full:
“The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund urges the U.S. Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Voting rights are a cornerstone of our democratic process and have been under attack by conservative political extremists. These extremists have tried everything from partisan gerrymandering to mass purges of voter rolls in attempts to undermine the work of election officials, sow false doubt in legitimate election results and curb access to registering and casting votes.
There are many things to be divided over but right now there is an opportunity to be aligned in eradicating barriers to voting. We have an opportunity to restore faith in the American people that there are still foundational values and inalienable rights that can hold us together. The right to vote is a baseline. It is an essential part to exercise our power and participate in our democracy.
George Washington was quoted as saying, “The power of the constitution will always be in the people. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their choosing: and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will be recalled.”
This is the plainest argument for eradicating barriers to voting for any and all of our people. However, it also explicitly explains why attacks on voting rights and access have increased as the demographics of this country have changed.
When LGBTQ+ Americans, People of Color and other marginalized populations vote in high numbers, elections are greatly impacted and it can make the difference in local, state and federal elections. The fear of losing power and the threat of losing an elected seat is not justification for our leaders to carve out LGBTQ+ folks, People of Color, women, poor people and so many other already marginalized groups from the political process.
Members of congress often have the hard job of making decisions that require them to weigh numerous nuances and complex decision points with varying intended and unintended consequences on communities. However, on the question whether to eradicate barriers to voting – the answer is clear. Our beloved people deserve access to our democracy. We have a right to it and therefore the right to vote – regardless of our political views. Any member of congress who is advocating for anything less than ensuring and protecting the right to vote for all of the people in their districts and states is in fact advocating to take away the power of the people to elect and hold accountable those who should be legislating on their behalf.
The choice is simple: are you on the side of all voters or are you willing to allow restricting of the vote for political ends? Will you advocate for all of the people that you claim to represent or will your sacrifice and abandon us community by community? Every decision will firmly place our elected officials on either the right or wrong side of history.
Instead of leaning into tactics that alienate and distance people from our democracy and each other, what if instead our elected Officials were inspired to get back to the real work of getting more of our people to more actively and consistently participate in civic engagement. What if they were willing to commit to learning more about the fears and dreams of those in the community that they know the least about and invest in meeting their needs and creating opportunities from them to thrive!
Our Democracy is broken and further restricting access to the political process will not heal the fractures that have only grown deeper and wider over these last years. Senators must take leadership and pass legislation that will protect and ensure free and fair elections. The strength of our Democracy and of our people depend on it.
Ongoing state legislative attacks in 2021 and 2022 on voting rights, many of which are barely disguised plans to suppress votes of Black people, as well as people from other historically marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ community, are undemocratic, racist and just plain wrong.
Some new and proposed state voting laws qualify as inhumane, for example, making it illegal to provide water and food to voters standing in hours-long lines.
Some of these attacks ignore the reality of people’s daily lives, outlawing assistance to voters with disabilities so they can cast ballots by mail from home, limiting voting hours, limiting, or ending ballot drop-box accessibility for people working several jobs to support minor children and elderly parents, and requiring identity documents to counter supposed voter fraud that research shows is practically nonexistent.
Identity document requirements pose specific challenges for many transgender and gender non-binary people due to some outdated state laws and financial and other barriers to updating documents like legal fees, a lack of access to inclusive health insurance and an inability to afford or overcome discriminatory policies and practices to receive gender-affirming care.
The path forward is clear – we need our federal elected officials to take leadership, take action, and protect voting rights NOW in order to rebuild and strengthen our democracy. This country belongs to all of us. This is our democracy, and we demand our rightful place in it. Pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act now!"