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Did you know that there are fewer voting rights in 2018 than there were 50 years ago when the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were passed?
Since 2010, 23 states have passed racist voter suppression laws, including racist gerrymandering and redistricting, laws that make it harder to register, reduced early voting days and hours, purging voter rolls, and more restrictive voter ID laws. Following the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, 14 states had new voting restrictions in place before the 2016 Presidential election and there were 868 fewer polling places across the country.
While these laws have disproportionately targeted Black people at least 17 states saw voter suppression cases targeting American Indian and Alaskan Native voters in 2016. Thirteen states that passed voter suppression laws also opted not to accept expanded Medicaid benefits offered under the Affordable Care Act.
These attacks follow a broader pattern of restricting and curtailing democratic processes by drawing on legacies of racism to undermine local efforts to organize for better conditions. As of July 2017, 25 states have passed laws that preempt cities from adopting their own local minimum wage laws. Most of these have been passed in response to city councils passing or wanting to pass minimum wage increases.
Emergency Financial Management has become a mechanism that effectively nullifies the right to vote to prioritize balanced budgets and repayments to Wall Street lenders over human lives. Non-elected managers are appointed and granted sweeping powers, including the authority to dismiss elected officials, scrap labor contracts, sell public assets and impose new taxes, without any accountability to voters. The City of Flint was under emergency management when it made the decision to switch its water source from the Detroit Water System to the Flint River, poisoning a community of almost 99,000, with a 42 percent poverty rate and in which 56 percent of residents are Black and 37 percent are White.
In addition, 6.1 million people who have been disenfranchised due to felony convictions, including one in 13 Black adults.
These continued attacks on democracy are connected to a growing anti-immigrant backlash in the form of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and the scapegoating and assaults on undocumented immigrants. In the years following the attacks of 9/11 and amid fears of economic insecurity, we have been led to believe that immigrants make our society and communities less safe, threaten our culture and democracy, and compete for our jobs and resources. However, undocumented immigrants contributed $5 trillion to the U.S. economy over the last 10 years. They paid $13 billion in Social Security in 2010, but only received $1 billion in benefits. They also pay eight percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the wealthiest one percent pay just 5.4 percent. Yet undocumented immigrants and most lawfully residing immigrants are barred from receiving assistance under the major public welfare programs, causing hardship for many poor immigrant families. In fact, among the 43.7 million immigrants in the U.S., there are 19.7 million – undocumented and lawfully residing – who cannot vote.
These millions of hardworking Americans who strengthen our economy and communities must be treated with the dignity and respect due to all human beings. They should not be used as cover for attacks on democracy.
The history of First Nations, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives in the U.S. reveals that these attacks on democracy follow a long legacy of subjugation. From the Doctrine of Discovery that was used to justify the takeover of indigenous lands to the ongoing attempt to undermine and constrain tribal sovereignty and authority as independent nations, the U.S. has been waging a full-scale war on the very right of indigenous people to exist. This begins with the belief that these people do not matter; therefore, taking away their political independence becomes possible, and, with that, their resources, wealth, and culture.
The truth is that when the democratic process and the right to vote are restricted, preempted and nullified, our democracy is under attack. These attacks target people of color, especially the poor, youth, and elderly, but in doing so, they strip us all of our constitutional protections; they allow extremists to get elected through voter suppression and racial gerrymandering and then use their power to hurt people of all races.
The truth is that this power has taken the form of xenophobia, Islamophobia, a fear of undocumented immigrants, and the continued oppression of First Nations, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
We have the right to vote and the right to accountable political representation.
Immigrants of all backgrounds have the right to citizenship that will afford them a full right to vote and participate in our democracy.
First Nations, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives have a right to their political and cultural institutions, lands and resources.
- We demand the immediate full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting, early registration of 17 year olds, automatic voting registration at the age of 18, early voting in every state, same-day registration, the enactment of Election Day as a holiday, and a verifiable paper record. We demand the right to vote for the currently and formerly incarcerated.
- We demand adequate funding for polling places to accommodate the full participation of the electorate.
- We demand an end to placing persons on the federal bench who have a record of standing against voting rights.
- We demand statehood, voting rights and representation for the more than 690,000 people in Washington D.C.
- We demand the reversal of state laws preempting local governments from passing minimum wage increases, and the removal of Emergency Financial Management positions that are unaccountable to the democratic process.
- We demand a clear and just immigration system that strengthens our democracy through the broad participation of everyone in this country. This includes providing a timely citizenship process that guarantees the right to vote. It also requires protecting immigrants’ abilities to organize for their rights in the workplace and in their communities without fear of retribution, detention and deportation.
- We demand that First Nations, Native Americans and Alaskan Native people retain their tribal recognition as nations, not races, to make substantive claims to their sovereignty.
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Illinois Poor People’s Campaign
℅ Joyce Brody
2332 North Lawndale Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
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Your contributions will go towards transportation costs, food, sign-making materials, trainings, sound equipment, and legal expenses. Even if you can’t stand with us at the Capitol or at other locations across the state, your contribution will make it possible for us to come together and force a national examination of poverty, systemic racism, the war economy, and ecological devastation. Please share this page and ask your circle — such as community groups, civic organizations, and faith communities — to support this movement of moral resistance.