Our Voices

Senate must address racial discrimination in voting

February 2, 2022

The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader

United States Senate

22 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Schumer:

Re: We Must Remain Focused on the Fight Against Racial Discrimination in Voting

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 230 national organizations committed to promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the 53 undersigned organizations, we write to thank you for your leadership — and your colleagues’ support both in the House and Senate — in pushing forward critical federal voting rights protections, and to urge you to remain extremely focused in the weeks ahead on the core issue of racial discrimination in voting.

First, we want to acknowledge and commend your steadfast leadership in pushing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act to the Senate floor. We thank you for using every tool at your disposal to secure a substantive, public debate among U.S. senators on critical federal voting rights protections — the first to occur since the Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly nine years ago.

We also deeply appreciate your decision to call a vote on whether to allow an often-amended procedural rule to stand in the way of the voting rights protections that voters of color need and deserve — forcing each U.S. senator to make a legacy-defining choice and showing the nation who is on the right side of history. Several senators spoke eloquently and passionately about the current existential threats to our democracy and Congress’s urgent constitutional responsibility to meet these threats with federal legislation.

This debate and vote mark progress on our journey towards becoming a truly inclusive, multiracial democracy. Yet we have far to go, and we must fight on. As John Lewis said: “Never give up, never give in, never give out.” We know that you and your colleagues are actively considering what comes next for voting rights and pro-democracy reforms in the Senate. We appreciate your commitment to keeping the Senate and the nation laser-focused on this issue in the coming weeks despite a challenging Senate calendar. This is simply too important to move past.

As you consider next steps, we urge you to remain focused on the urgent threat of racial discrimination in voting. People of color made their voices heard in record numbers in the 2020 election, and the result has been a swift and sustained backlash to ensure that they can never again exercise their full voice and power. Voters of color are facing the greatest threat to voting rights since Jim Crow, and this threat is targeted. From questions about the vote count in communities of color to the January 6th insurrection — just one day after Georgia elected its first Black and Jewish U.S. senators — to the rash of voter suppression laws in the states, including efforts to replace nonpartisan election officials especially in communities of color, the urgent threats to our democracy are rooted in racism. As civil rights and community leaders have said many times, we cannot out-organize or litigate past attacks on our freedom to vote. Therefore, we must have a legislative solution, and that solution must address racial discrimination head on.

The conversations regarding reforms to the Electoral Count Act (ECA) are needed and welcome, but they simply are not adequate to meet the current moment. We should certainly make sure that votes duly cast are reflected in the ultimate presidential count. But we also must address the discriminatory barriers to the ballot that prevent votes from even being cast, or we will retreat and retrench from our aspirations as a multiracial democracy — just as we did after Reconstruction.

Moreover, we must ensure that any revised legislation also includes components of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act that are necessary to address the problems faced by eligible voters in their attempts to cast votes and have those votes counted. Further, while seeking narrow reforms that can garner 60 votes is useful, we must continue the conversation — in the Senate and across the country — about the imperative to no longer allow an arcane rule with a racist history to block urgently needed protections for the freedom to vote.

Thank you again for your tremendous leadership, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that the U.S. Senate fulfills its constitutional responsibility to protect and preserve the freedom to vote. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Jesselyn McCurdy, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference, at [email protected].

Sincerely,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

ACCESS

A. Philip Randolph Institute

AFL-CIO

Alliance for Youth Action

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of Teachers

American Humanist Association

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC

Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues

Common Cause

DemCast USA

Democracy 21

Democracy Initiative

Demos

End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund

Fair Fight Action

Feminist Majority Foundation

GLSEN

Human Rights Campaign

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

Lambda Legal

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters of the United States

NAACP

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)

National Action Network

National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity

National Association of Social Workers

National Black Justice Coalition

National CAPACD – National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council of Negro Women

National Fair Housing Alliance

New Georgia Project Action Fund

Our Vote Texas

Oxfam America

People For the American Way

PFLAG National

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

SEIU

Sojourners

Southern Poverty Law Center

State Voices

The Andrew Goodman Foundation

The Arc of the U.S.

The League of Women Voters of the United States

Voter Participation Center

cc: U.S. Senate