My friend, mentor and colleague, Congressman John Lewis, often said, “The vote is the most powerful, non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.” He may no longer be with us during this march, but these words — and his lifelong fight to protect the right to vote — are more important than ever.
In Indiana, and in states across America, voting for the 2020 election is already taking place. Unfortunately, in too many places, early voting has been plagued by extremely long lines, glitches in voting systems and too few polling locations to serve everyone who wants to vote. However, there are many reports that in affluent areas, there are no long lines or long waits to vote. In Rep. Lewis’ home state, many Georgians waited in line for hours on the first day of early voting. In Texas, the governor has tried to mandate one ballot drop-off box per county, putting voters in Texas’ crowded urban areas at a considerable disadvantage.
Congressman Lewis knew, and we know, that these circumstances don’t happen by chance. Whether its restrictive voter I.D. laws, purges of voter rolls or that mail-in ballots must be received by noon on Election Day, they are part of a nationwide, concerted effort to suppress the vote for Black and brown people. Sadly, some elected officials think that if they can’t win our support through their ideas or policies, then the next best option is to keep us from voting altogether. This strategy is nothing new, and it’s one that Congressman Lewis, Dr. King and many other freedom fighters fought against.
Now, it’s our turn to carry on that fight.
The House of Representatives is doing that work. Last year, we passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This legislation strengthens the Voting Rights Act, which has been weakened since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision struck down part of this landmark law.
We also passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, which upgrades our voting systems to help better protect them from foreign interference. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, it’s clear to me that we must be equally vigilant against threats to our Democracy from outside our country as from within.
In March of this year, we approved $400 million in the CARES Act COVID-19 relief bill to help states run elections safely and efficiently amid the pandemic.
Additionally, this past August, the House passed the Delivering for America Act. This bill stops the Trump Administration from making harmful changes to the United States Postal Service that could slow down the agency’s ability to transport absentee ballots in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, the Senate is still sitting on many of these important bills with no action. It is disappointing that the Senate is in a reckless race to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, while the presidential election is already underway, but they refuse to act on critical legislation to strengthen voting rights for all Americans.
The House has been fighting hard to protect our vote and the integrity of our elections, but there’s so much more to do. That’s where all of you come in. I’m encouraging everyone to make a voting plan. The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional obstacles to voting. That’s why it’s important that we all have a plan in place to make sure our voices are heard on or before Nov. 3.
Please visit indianavoters.in.gov to find your closest early vote center and hours, or the closest vote center location on Election Day, and to answer other questions you may have.
It is critically important that we all vote by Nov. 3. So much is on the line — our health, our jobs, our civil rights, our public safety and much more. We know change is needed, but those with power, who are determined to protect the unfair status quo, want us to stay at home and not vote. We are not going to let that happen!
Never forget, people died so all Americans could have the right to vote. Our vote is our power. That is why people are trying so hard to take it away. This year, and every election year, let’s harness that power and demand the changes our community needs.
Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of three Muslims in Congress. Rep. Carson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.