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200+ Get Arrested for Voting Rights
Dispatches on the For The People Act (Edition #36)
Happy almost Thanksgiving! The Senate and White House may have turkey on their minds, but the fight to pass the Freedom to Vote Act continues to grow. Today, I want to tell you about a major civil disobedience action that occurred outside the White House last week and give you some news articles to share with your family and friends over the holiday.
No More Excuses, Voting Rights Now:
On November 17th, the People for the American Way (PFAW), the League of Women Voters, DFAD, the Drum Major Institute, Black Voters Matter and others hosted another “No More Excuses, Voting Rights Now” rally/protest outside the White House. This was the final event in this series of civil disobedience actions (though I am sure there will be other civil disobedience events coming up soon).
Let’s set the stage a bit.
Over a month ago, in the first “No More Excuses, Voting Rights Now” rally, five activists were arrested. They took a courageous stand and inspired those around them. But it was unclear what would happen from there. Would more join them in subsequent weeks? Greater pressure would be needed to get the Freedom to Vote Act across the finish line.
Flash forward to a week or two later: Roughly 25 voting rights activists protested and were arrested at the following No More Excuses rally. This signaled that there was an appetite for more grassroots action. We celebrated the event and hoped that the momentum would continue to grow. Press Secretary Psaki had received multiple questions about the arrests at this point and President Biden had shifted his position on the filibuster.
On November 3rd, nearly 60 activists, including 20 young people were arrested in front of the White House. You can check out our coverage of this event here. This doubled the arrests of the first two civil disobedience actions. By this point, the Biden Administration was fully aware of the pressure.
How would this successful day be topped?
Well, at last week’s final rally, the number of those risking arrest more than tripled! Over 200 civil rights and voting rights activists were arrested. This was one of the largest acts of civil disobedience to protect democracy since the Democracy Spring protests in 2016 where over 1200 Americans were arrested.
If you are looking for optimism, pay attention to these protests. Activists are putting their bodies on the line and making a difference. They aren’t giving up on the Freedom to Vote Act, and neither should you.
As many Democratic Senators have said, inaction is not an option. Failure to protect the right to vote would be catastrophic.
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So what do we now need the Senate to do?
First, the Senate must swiftly pass the Build Back Better Act — President Biden’s social spending bill — so they can move on to voting rights. While this is happening, moderate Democrats, including the President, need to agree on how to fix the filibuster. Immediately after the passage of the Build Back Better bill, the Senate must reform the filibuster and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Ideally, the Senate can pick up D.C. Statehood shortly after passing these two bills.
What can we do?
We can continue to mobilize. Over the last 9 months at Equal Citizens, I have watched, participated, and encouraged grassroots activism — initially for the passage of the For The People Act, and more recently, for its successor, the Freedom to Vote Act. It may not seem clear through all the fog, but our activism has been incredibly effective and is responsible for the continued (albeit slow) progress on the bill.
We need to keep intensifying our activism and there is a role to play for everyone who believes in the freedom to vote. Organizing is a relational endeavor, so one concrete ask that I have of you is the following: Use the holidays as an opportunity to engage your family and friends in this fight. Tell them about the bill. Share this Substack with them. Pass a phone around the dinner table and leave a message for your senators. Tell them the filibuster cannot stand in the way of the Freedom to Vote Act.
If everyone who subscribes to this Substack were to engage 5 family members or friends, our movement would expand substantially. This simple act would generate new pressure on the Senate. We can’t pass the Freedom to Vote Act by ourselves; let’s bring in new folks to keep the fight going!
Articles to share with family and friends:
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) penned a piece in the Boston Globe explaining the constitutional crisis unfolding before our eyes. Senator King believes that the stakes for our democracy could not be higher. He writes that if Republicans are unwilling to compromise on protecting the freedom to vote, then fixing the filibuster is necessary.
MLK’s Granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, explains why she is standing up for the freedom to vote. Yolanda outlines her experience as a youth activist and the importance of youth activism in the democracy movement. She is following in the footsteps of her family and is an inspiration to us all.
“And if Democrats can’t find a way to overcome repeated Republican filibusters in order to pass federal legislation protecting voting rights, they won’t just find themselves out of power—through their inaction they’ll be complicit in allowing the greatest rollback of voting rights and loss of representation for voters of color since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.”
NBC reports on Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s Senate timeline for the rest of the year. Senator Schumer, in a letter to his caucus, urges Senators to keep their schedules flexible and reiterates his desire for the swift passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.
Don’t forget to keep your friends, family, and colleagues in the loop by sharing this Substack with them.
Social Media Roundup:
Let’s be frank: there are A LOT of tweets, posts, and general conversation about the Freedom to Vote Act. In this section, we give you an overview of the tweets and media you really need to see.
More Ways to Help!
We are entering possibly one of the most critical moments for American democracy since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We need all the help we can get to push the Freedom to Vote Act over the finish line! Here are more ways to join the fight to protect American democracy:
Call your senators and tell them that you support reforming the filibuster for voting rights legislation. You can find your senators’ phone numbers, as well as where they stand on the filibuster, using our handy filibuster tracker!
Common Cause and End Citizens United are organizing regular phone banks in support of the Freedom to Vote Act. This is a great opportunity to spread the word and help constituents contact their Senators in support of the bill. Check them out here and here.
You can also text DEMOCRACY to 33339 to receive a daily text message reminder to call your senators in support of voting rights legislation.
The League of Women Voters can also help you contact the White House here.
Write a letter to the editor in your local paper sharing your support of the Freedom to Vote Act and urging your Senators to pass it. Not sure how to write a letter to the editor? Reach out to us at email@example.com and we can help!
Share our newsletter, our podcast, the articles included above, and the resources on the bill below on social media and tell your friends why you support #FreedomtoVote
If, after reading our newsletter, you still want to know more about the Freedom to Vote Act or Equal Citizens you can find more information here! If you have questions about the bill you want us to answer in our Substack, tweet at us with #HR1Substack! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more updates throughout the week.
Here are a few resources on the “Freedom to Vote Act” if you have questions:
Equal Citizens launched a filibuster tracker, so you can see where your senator stands on the filibuster. It also includes their phone numbers and their Twitter handles, so you can get in touch with them directly and push them to support filibuster reform!
The Brennan Center for Justice created a wonderful guide to the Freedom to Vote Act. Check it out here. Additionally, they created an extensive fact sheet on the differences between the Freedom to Vote Act and the For the People Act, which I highly suggest checking out here.
The Brennan Center also published a report on why H.R. 1 brings us closer to an inclusive democracy, while the Freedom to Vote Act is not the same, this report is still relevant in a number of ways. Check it out here. They also created an in-depth report about racism and disenfranchisement due to incarceration.
There is a lot of misinformation about the Freedom to Vote Act, and the amount of misinformation so please reach out to us if you hear anything that doesn’t sound right and we will give you the correct information.
More About Me:
Kevin Rissmiller is a fellow at Equal Citizens and a Goodwin-Niering Scholar at Connecticut College majoring in Government and exploring sociology, economics, and applied statistics. In his free time, you will find him at Dunkins or (pre-pandemic) playing ultimate frisbee. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
If you want more updates on federal voting rights legislation from Kevin, then subscribe here!