WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2020 – Civil rights advocates hosted a press briefing call today to outline the need for immediate election funding in the new COVID-19 relief package to protect the integrity of the general election. Speakers included Rep. Terri Sewell and Calif. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, as well as leaders from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, American Association of People with Disabilities, and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.
“The Senate must immediately include $3.6 billion in the next COVID-19 package to ensure safeguards for our democracy during the pandemic and beyond. That includes mandating that states establish vital protections for voters and a range of options to ensure every person can safely cast a ballot in a way that works for them. Without a functional democracy in which everyone is included, heard, and represented, we cannot make real progress on civil and human rights issues like affordable health care, fair wages, educational equity, and justice reform,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell said, “It would be impossible to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 without acknowledging the passing of my dear friend and voting rights hero, John Lewis. Not only must Mitch McConnell take up and pass the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020 — which has been sitting on his desk since December 2019 — he ought to support the VoteSafe Act that requires states to permit no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for the 2020 elections and an early in-person voting period of at least 20 days for the 2020 elections. Ensuring free and fair elections is the cornerstone of our democracy and, right now, too many Americans are being left behind. We must recommit ourselves to John Lewis’ vision of America, and restore the promise of voter equality!”
“Congressman John Lewis — and many others — marched and bled so that every citizen could exercise their right to vote. This November, we must not force American citizens into having to choose between exercising their right to vote or protecting their health and that of their loved ones. We must honor the spirit of Congressman Lewis and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act by offering voters safe options for casting their ballot, beginning with no-excuse vote-by-mail. And Congress must act to provide the funding necessary for state and local elections officials to administer accessible, secure, and safe elections,” said Alex Padilla, California secretary of state.
“The onslaught against protections for voters of color continues to intensify as we move closer to November,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest across the country, it has been made abundantly clear that the people’s voice and vote require immediate restoration. The disintegration of voting rights has disproportionately affected Black voters; we must work diligently to curtail the consequences and place the power back in the hands of the electorate.”
Maria Town, president and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities, said, “People with disabilities frequently encounter barriers to our participation in the democratic process — from inaccessible polling places to inoperable accessible voting machines to discriminatory voter ID laws. During the pandemic, a shift to vote by mail presents additional barriers and will not be accessible to many in the disability community. States need funding to ensure they can execute accessible vote by mail programs and maintain safe, accessible and fair in person early and election day voting.”
“As evidenced by the many problems with vote by mail, lack of poll workers, insufficient polling locations, equipment problems, and long lines that happened in the June 9 primary in Georgia, it is imperative that Congress provide funding for elections in November so that both voters and election officials have sufficient personal protective equipment and voting can be conducted in a safe, accessible, and secure manner. A few of the critical needs for funding are drop boxes, recruitment of poll workers, scanners that can handle large numbers of paper ballots, postage for vote by mail ballots, increased funding for the postal service to be able to deliver voters’ ballots in a timely manner, and security of voting systems,” said Helen Butler, executive director, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.
In addition, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the following groups are joining The Leadership Conference in engaging in a day of action tomorrow, August 6, as they continue advocating for congressional funding to ensure safe and accessible elections this year:
Action Group Network
ADL (Anti-Defamation League)
Alaskans Take A Stand
American Federation of Teachers
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Andrew Goodman Foundation
Arab American Institute
Black Women Rising
Campus Vote Project
Center for American Progress
Center for Disability Rights
Clean Elections Texas
Climate Reality Action Fund
Color Of Change
Communications Workers of America
Declaration for American Democracy
End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund
Franciscan Action Network
In Our Own Voice: Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
Lawyers for Good Government
Let Nevadans Vote
Missouri Voter Protection Coalition
Movement Advancement Project
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of Jewish Women
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National Urban League Young Professionals
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Poligon Education Fund
Progressive Turnout Project
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Stand Up America
Texas Progressive Action Network
Union of Concerned Scientists
United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
When We All Vote
YWCA USAThe Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.