Urgency for passage of voting rights measure expressed at rally

Rev. Don Tolliver
Morcus McCoy Jr.

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Every individual who spoke during a National Action Network rally had a sense of urgency in their tone, as they called on state and national politicians to encourage Congress to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

There were at least 12 other similar rallies or marches organized by NAN across the country last Saturday. Like the local group, they came together to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the march that Martin Luther King Jr. led in Washington. 

The march eventually led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, that law has undergone several changes, including being “gutted” by the Supreme Court over the last year. Additionally, speakers found it troubling that recent efforts led by Republican governors appear to be moves to suppress voting rights in their states.

“We want to make sure that everyone understands that the right to vote was a blood, sweat and tears concept that came from years of working and laboring in the fields,” said Rev. Don Tolliver, vice president of the local chapter of NAN. “We want to make sure that every person understands the right to have fair opportunities to be able to vote, which is your right to do as a U.S. Citizen.”

During the week leading up to Saturday’s rallies, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Rep. Al Lawson was one of the House members who favored the Act, which passed by a 219-212 vote. 

“This historic bill honors the legacy of its namesake, the late Congressman John Lewis, who devoted his life to securing the sacred right to vote for every American – and all those who sacrificed for this noble cause,” Lawson said in a press release.

During Saturday’s rally on the front lawn of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, State Representative Allison Tant encouraged the audience to call on their state representatives in Washington to support the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Tant also said a campaign for voter registration should be undertaken “like never before” to counteract “rotten ideas” written into local voting laws.

 Registering and having an updated signature on record will turn out to be the “great equalizer,” Tant said. “One man, one vote. Every single vote matters. That’s the trajectory of human rights, civil rights and our state. It’s never been more vital.”

One of the key features of the voting rights bill before Congress is it will give attorney generals the right to request that federal election observers be present anywhere in the country where discriminatory voting practices pose a serious threat.

Speakers at Saturday’s event included State Attorney Jack Campbell, former County Commissioner Bob Rackleff and Curtis Taylor, president of the local Urban League.

“No one can stand on the sidelines while state after state passes law after law to suppress our vote,” said Taylor, expressing the urgency for change. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Morcus McCoy Jr. travelled from Orlando to represent the  Equal Ground Education Fund, a Black-led voting rights organization, at the rally. The filibustering in the Senate and more than 300 election laws being written in more than 18 states are an attack on democracy, McCoy said.

“We must not allow anyone or any system to demand and possess what is rightfully ours,” McCoy said. “Today we call on the Senate to stop filibustering and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

“America is a melting pot of individuals with different ideas. Not to allow different communities to speak and have their rightful place in this country is a demise of what this country was built on.”

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