Highlighting that fight is the Congressional Black Caucus, which has teamed up with African-American ministers in an interfaith summit that included “panels on the state of voting rights, protecting a church’s tax exempt status and energizing constituents and congregants to vote.” The summit was organized to inform and strategize in response to the plethora of new, discriminatory voter suppression laws.
“We will have attorneys there who are well-equipped to provide the guidance to the clergy members,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the Congressional Black Caucus chair and a United Methodist pastor. “They will understand, before they leave, about some of the new laws in certain states designed – as we interpret them – to reduce the turnout. The day is over when they could just stand in the pulpit and say ‘Go vote. It’s your duty.’ They’ve got to now be equipped with some sophisticated information to help inspire a turnout and protect parishioners from some of the schemes that are out there.”
They also had Attorney General Eric Holder, who gave the keynote address.
Our efforts honor the generations who have taken extraordinary risks, and willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance—as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs—to ensure that their children, and all citizens, would have the chance to participate in the work of their government. And our efforts reflect the fact that the right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government, it is—and always has been—the lifeblood of our democracy. In fact, no force has proved more powerful—or more integral to the success of the great American experiment—than efforts to expand the franchise.
Despite this history, and despite our nation’s long tradition of extending voting rights—to non-property owners and women, to people of color and Native Americans, and to younger Americans—today, a growing number of our fellow citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that—nearly five decades ago—so many fought to address. In my travels across this country, I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who—often for the first time in their lives—now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals; and that some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.
[Y]ou have a critical responsibility to help identify and implement the most effective ways to safeguard the “most basic” of all American rights. You have a thoughtful voice to add to discussions about voting access—what the struggle for freedom has long been about ensuring: the opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions, and—through the casting of their ballots—to signal their priorities and shape their own futures. Since its earliest days, the American people have worked and fought for such a system. And, now, with each of us—this fight goes on. The progress we hold dear is in our hands. And the democracy we hold sacred is our responsibility to carry forward.
AG Holder followed through on those sentiments this week, when his department intervened to stop Florida from taking the vote away from potentially thousands of citizens. It’s obviously going to be a long fight.
For more of the week’s news, make the jump below the fold.