This year is historic in a number of ways for disabled people and for all civil and human rights advocates. It is the anniversary year for a number of laws that protect one of the most precious rights we have – the right to #Vote. It was just a few weeks ago that we lost the most prominent fighter for the right to vote the late great Rep. John Lewis. On August 6, 1965 President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. That was 50yrs ago and the celebration for this life changing law was not diminished because of the passing of Lewis in fact many made sure that it was celebrated with even more respect, reverence and importance.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed but the implementation of this law remains a serious issue and we continue to fight for the right to vote for all in this country. It was not until the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 that disabled people received this civil right. But both laws are used and help with ensuring this fundamental right. There are a number of issues in this country that make it hard and almost impossible for many to register to vote, obtain voting information and cast a vote. This is especially true for disenfranchised and multi-marginalized communities such as Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).
We are in an election year of our lives! This is not a joke and so much depends on this election cycle as we not only are engaging in a Presidential election but the country is also voting for the Congress as we do every two years. The entire House of Representatives and many of the Senate members are also on the ballot along with a number of important state votes. CDR is part of the work to protect the right to Vote through a number of collaborations that include legislative, policy and community outreach work. Last month we joined 155 Civil Rights Organizations Urging Immediate Congressional Action on Voting Rights and honor the life and legacy of the late Representative John Lewis by passing federal legislation to safeguard the fundamental right to vote.
The week of August 6th as the country celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, CDR joined the National Summit “Protecting America’s Vote: Our March to the Ballot Box” hosted by Barbara Arnwine’s national group Transformative Justice Coalition. This was a virtual gathering and meeting for Gen Z and Millennials held in honor of this occasion. CDR’s Director of National Policy, Dara Baldwin was a panelist for two panels discussing the importance of the right to vote for disabled people and how communities can collaborate to ensure the implementation of these laws. The first panel was titled: “A Radical Voting Rights Agenda” and Baldwin made sure the discussion encompassed the fact that Vote By Mail (VBM) is not always the most accessible and/or fair way for disabled people to vote. She also reiterated the fact that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) clearly states that people are to vote in the format that is best for them. The importance of states, territories and the District must ensure that registering to vote is also accessible to all. There are states that do not offer this process in an accessible manner for those who are Blind and or have low vision. This is thirty years after the ADA was passed int law.
Then Ms. Baldwin participated on the Opening Plenary panel titled: “Protecting America’s Vote: Our March To The Ballot Box”, where she discussed the importance of casting the vote. She discussed that the ability to vote is an honor one that her ancestors did not have and one that her great-grandmother instilled in her at a young age. “When my great-grandmother, who was my mother’s, father’s mother, went to cast her vote, she took me with her. She would say the names of her mother, father and grandparents as she cast her vote! I would ask her what are you doing granny? And she would reply: “I am honoring our ancestors who were never able to do this!” We celebrate this momentous occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act but we must never forget to protect this right for all and honor this precious right by voting. If for no one else, get out there and cast a vote in honor of the late great Rep. John Lewis.
To read more about the Voting Rights Act go here: The Center for Legislative Archives https://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/voting-rights-1965
To read more about the ADA and voting go here: US Department of Justice https://www.ada.gov/ada_voting/ada_voting_ta.htm
To read more about the Help America Vote Act go here: US Election Assistance Commission: https://www.eac.gov/about_the_eac/help_america_vote_act.aspx
To get assistance with voting contact the Election Protection Hotline housed in the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – *which is accessible 866-OurVote (This was created by Barbara Arnwine)
To learn more about this work contact Dara Baldwin, Director of National Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org