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SPLC: President Biden's Voting Rights Speech Is a Needed Call to Action for Multiracial Coalition of Democracy Defenders

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Today, President Joe Biden delivered a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

Please go here to see SPLC Action Fund’s letter to all 100 U.S. Senators today urging passage of the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

The following statement is by Margaret Huang, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and SPLC Action Fund:

“Throughout our history, enemies of democracy have attempted to silence the will of the people by restricting voting rights and political participation, especially for Black Americans. In the past, the strategy of the enemies of multiracial democracy was to prevent nearly every Black American and other non-white Americans from participating in democracy through widespread racial terror and violence. In the present, their strategy usually is to create as many obstacles to the ballot as possible targeted at Black voters, Latinx voters, low-income voters, young voters, new voters and voters with disabilities to hamper those voters’ ability to elect and be represented by candidates of their choice. On January 6, their strategy was a call-back to the violent tactics of the past to prevent election results from being certified.

“President Biden accurately characterized the anti-democracy actions by state legislators and others following January 6: ‘There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections...So make no mistake: Bullies and merchants of fear, peddlers of lies, are threatening the very foundation of our country.’

“President Biden’s speech today ultimately was a needed call to action for this multiracial coalition of democracy defenders in this country to ‘rise to the urgency of this moment’ as John Lewis, Amelia Boyton, and other leaders did during the civil rights movement.

“We must all gather the power we have to protect and exercise our right to vote and ensure it is available to and used by our families, neighbors, and communities to build a democracy that truly works for everyone.

“The SPLC welcomes all defenders of democracy into this ongoing and energized movement. When Georgia put up new, unconstitutional roadblocks to the ballot box this year, we sued. When Florida violated voter outreach organizations’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to act as agents of the state this year, we sued. Within the past year through our Vote Your Voice initiative, we have put over $23.3 million from our endowment into voter mobilization organizations across the Deep South to build political power and effect change at the ballot box and in ongoing community districting processes

“As the president made clear today, Congress must mobilize its own power – as it has in previous moments in history - to defend Americans’ voting rights from the onslaught of anti-voter legislation passed by state legislatures in the Deep South and around the nation. That means employing every tool in the legislative process available to pass the For the People Act, up to and including eliminating the historically anti-democratic filibuster. That means re-introducing and passing a John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act that restores the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The promise of democracy is not guaranteed; it must be fought for and protected. We will continue this fight until it is won."