Voting Rights Today: From North Carolina to Your Home State
On February 8, 2014, 1,000–1,500 Unitarian Universalists came together in solidarity with our partners in North Carolina in their struggle against repressive legislative initiatives, in recognition that North Carolina is a test state for unleashing similar legislation across the country.
Our work together in Raleigh was a powerful launching pad for action to ensure the right to vote and have our voices heard, an issue at the heart of so much of our justice work. In this election year, the Unitarian Universalist Association and Standing on the Side of Love will be supporting UUs across the country in taking action to ensure all people have the right to vote, especially after the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act in June 2013.
Here are a few powerful ways to join this vital work:
1. Hold a worship service or other event commemorating upcoming anniversaries:
March from Selma to Montgomery, March 7–25, 1965.
Murders of Baptist church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson, February 26, 1965; UU minister Rev. James Reeb, March 11, 1965; and UU civil rights protestor Viola Liuzzo, March 25, 1965.
Signing of the Voting Rights Act by President Johnson, August 6, 1965.
2. Get engaged with voting rights efforts and voter registration, as an individual or as a congregation, in partnership with local and/or national organizations. For resources, visit the ACLU, NAACP, and VRAforToday.
3. Find out if there is a movement similar to Moral Mondays in your state. South Carolina, Georgia, New York, and Florida have all launched similar campaigns in recent months. Will your state be next?
4. Support this important work by making a donation to the North Carolina NAACP, connecting with your local NAACP chapter, or making a gift to Standing on the Side of Love as we continue to support this vital work.
5. The coalition in North Carolina that led the Moral March modeled partnership, accountability, and solidarity between more than 160 civil rights, faith-based, labor, student, women’s rights, environmental protection, LGBTQ, and immigrant justice groups. How can you, your congregation if you have one, and social justice activists in your area learn from this coalition?
7. Check out the Standing on the Side of Love blog series “Voting Rights Today: From North Carolina to Your Home State,” featuring stories from people who are taking continuing action to build on the Moral Mondays movement and/or their experiences in Raleigh February 8. See video of the Mass Moral March press conference featuring UUA President Peter Morales and NC NAACP President William Barber here. Do you have a story to share? Send it to email@example.com and get featured in this blog series!
9. The Living Legacy Project and the UU College of Social Justice are hosting a joint intergenerational Civil Rights Journey in Mississippi from July 5-12, 2014. Participants will learn from veterans of Freedom Summer, and will experience the role that both faith and music play in sustaining people in the struggle for justice. We will deepen our understanding of and competence in a multi-cultural world, and study the links between Civil Rights history and today’s struggle against voter suppression. And we’ll learn how to be effective, inspired workers for justice wherever we live. Sign up to register here.
Why does this matter today?
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
This was a huge blow to democracy. Although we have made significant gains in voting rights, discrimination at the polls cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. People of color, students, people with disabilities, poor people, immigrants, people with felony convictions, transgender people, people who are homeless, and many others face significant obstacles today in registering to vote and casting ballots.
As we’ve seen over the last few years in states across the country, efforts to suppress the vote continue and, although the tactics have changed, the goal of disfranchisement remains the same. Now is the time to mobilize to defend the freedom to vote.
Defending the freedom to vote has been central to the work of the UUA and at the core of Unitarian Universalism for years. From expanding enfranchisement for women and African Americans to advocating for a path to citizenship for immigrants, from civil rights engagement to taking on the New Jim Crow, as a faith community we are vocal on this issue and have made real change happen throughout history. In addition:
- Voting rights is written into our principles: “The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”
- We have passed numerous resolutions on voting rights.
- Unitarians, including Susan B. Anthony, were leaders of the suffrage movement that won the right to vote for women.
- UUs were deeply engaged in the civil rights movement that included winning passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and UUs Viola Liuzzo and Rev. James Reeb were killed in 1965 while working for voters’ rights in Alabama. Check out this video highlighting civil rights activist Rev. Clark Olsen, a survivor of the attack, commemorating the work of Rev. James Reeb.
- UUs launched the interfaith Faithful Democracy campaign in 2002 that registered hundreds of thousands of new voters across the country, working with community partners such NAACP, ACORN, and others. UUs also participated in poll watching and monitoring and traveled to areas where voter suppression was occurring.