Fight against 'gerrymandered' voter maps happening in Texas, elsewhere
In this July 17, 2021, file photo, a person holds a candle and a poster with an image of the late Rep. John Lewis during a rally in support of voting rights, at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington.Photo: Jose Luis Magana (AP)

Today, Saturday, Aug. 28, Houstonians were scheduled to take part in a local event with national implications. However, organizers said they made the difficult decision to cancel the events in Houston and Dallas

Participants were scheduled to gather at Discovery Green from 10am – 12noon for the local iteration of the national March On for Voting Rights, but no more. The culprit? COVID.

Lead organzers March On said in a statement, “Throughout the planning process, we have been committed to holding safe gatherings and complying with local COVID-19 mandates here in Texas as we march for our rights. Interest was strong even as we incorporated COVID mitigation protocols to keep all our attendees safe, including masking and requiring proof of vaccinations in Houston.”

However, with the Delta variant COVID surge filling up hospital beds to dangerously high levels, March On chose to cancel ithe event in hopes of deterring more Houstonians from contracting the virus.

The Houston demonstration was to include a rally and concert feturing Bun B and Trae tha Truth, along with speeches by activists, artists, elected officials and faith leaders.

Beyond Houston and Dallas, protestors will still gather in more than 40 other cities to mark the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington during the March On for Voting Rights, a gathering in which organizers will demand that Congress pass both the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, according to USA Today. The two bills have significant Republican opposition and would require the filibuster being overturned, but for many civil rights organizations, the bills’ passage means protecting the Black vote.

USA Today reported:

The demonstrations this year will call on Congress to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4) and the For the People Act (H.R. 1).

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is meant to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Supreme Court decisions have struck down. It’s named after the late John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and voting rights advocate. The legislation passed the House on Wednesday and is expected to face significant opposition in the Senate.

The For the People Act also centers on expanding voting rights through banning partisan gerrymandering and changing campaign finance laws.

The demonstrations will be led by Martin Luther King III, whose father, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., led the historic march 58 years ago. Joining the younger King in leading this effort is Arndrea Waters King, Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders. Organizations participating include March On, the Drum Major Institute, the Sharotn-led National Action Network, the Future Coalition, the Service Employees International Union, 51 for 51, and about 200 other partners.

USA Today reports the march will also be a protest against almost 400 bills in 48 states seeking to make it harder for people, namely Blacks and other people of color, to vote in the midterm elections next year.

From USA Today:

At least six bills in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky and Oklahoma shorten windows to apply for mail-in ballots, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a public policy nonprofit that tracks voter suppression legislation. Bills in Iowa and Montana call for reducing polling place availability. Georgia and Iowa bills seek to limit voting days and hours.

Other bills, many of which have already been signed into law, ban ballot drop boxes and mail-in voting, impose harsher voter ID requirements and prohibit giving water to voters in line. The Brennan Center called this wave of restrictions “the most aggressive we have seen in more than a decade of tracking state voting laws.”

Advocates say these efforts target Black voters and other voters of color, who have faced voter suppression throughout U.S. history.

“It also makes it tragic that we’re at a place where, as my mom used to say, every generation has to re-earn or earn its freedom. Because theoretically, we should be beyond voting rights,” Martin Luther King III told NPR. “We should be addressing other issues.”

Activists have already held a demonstration earlier this week calling on President Biden to put pressure on Congress to pass both bills. Biden has been vocal in his support of the two bills but has said he won’t intervene in the filibuster process, which is a huge sticking oint for many, including Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP.

Spurred on by voter supression efforts in Texas, Georgia, Arizona and nearly all GOP-led states, Johnson called out the White House and Democrats in D.C. for their lack of urgency in confronting these efforts to legalize voter disfranchisement.

“We cannot out-organize voter suppression,” said Johnson in an op-ed, referring to the reported White House belief that they will have the ability to defeat any and all voter supression efforts by organizing for even greater voter turn-out in the coming 2022 and 2024 elections. Clerly, Johnson and many others strongly disagree with that strategy, and expect a return on their 2020 vote investments that placed the Biden administration in office.

“We organized in November to put people in office to address the issue of voter suppression. We did not organize in November to let elected officials off the hook to organize again and overcome new hurdle. Voters did their jobs as citizens, and now they’re simply asking elected officials to do their job to protect our right to vote.”

Although Biden cannot change the current filibuster rule, NPR reports, Democrats and activists have said that his influence and support can sway votes.The Senate returns in September and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to make voting rights legislation a priority.

-The Root & NNPA