Delaware voters gathered at intersections in Wilmington and Rehoboth earlier this week and urged drivers to honk if they support the freedom to vote.
The events were part of a national “Time to Act” week of action, designed to demonstrate the urgency of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Overall, more than 80 grassroots events are being held during the U.S. Senate’s recess week, November 8 – 13. Courtesy photos of the Delaware events are available here.
The Rehoboth event attracted many people concerned about the state of American democracy. “I have always believed that the right to vote is one of the most sacred aspects of being an American,” said Don Peterson of Rehoboth Beach. “It is a right that deserves protection and expansion. It should be made as easy as possible for all citizens to exercise this right. As soon as the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, on the fallacious idea that voting protections were no longer needed, we saw State after State rush to limit voting rights, especially for the most marginalized in our society. That effort has accelerated tremendously after the 2020 elections based on The Big Lie. I fear that unless the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are passed now, in this Congress, our democracy could disappear. All Senators who truly believe in democracy MUST assure that these Acts pass, even if it means reforming the filibuster. Our freedom to vote is much more precious than this remnant of the Jim Crow era. This is why I stand on the street in protest. To remind our Senators that nothing is more precious than my vote and our democracy.”
Participants in Wilmington had similar concerns. “The right to vote is fundamental and critical to creating healthy and safe communities and ensuring our environment priorities, such as access to clean water and air, addressing environmental justice and the climate crisis are achieved,” said Sherri Evans-Stanton from Wilmington, who directs the Sierra Club Delaware Chapter. “The Freedom to Vote Act paired with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act offers a historic opportunity to protect our democracy and preserve the freedom to vote for all Americans.”
The events were sponsored by Common Cause Delaware, the Sierra Club Delaware Chapter, and Indivisible Highlands & Beyond. Participants held up a variety of signs, some of which called on Sen. Chris Coons to come out for filibuster reform: as Sen. Tom Carper said last week: “No barrier — not even the filibuster — must stop our obligation to our democracy.”
“I am here asking Senator Coons: which side are you on? I implore him to join us on the side of love, justice and democracy by committing to immediate action on voting rights and fix or nix the filibuster,” said the Rev. Cathy Rion Starr from Milton. “My faith calls me to be here today because democracy is sacred, and every voice matters. Right now the freedom to vote is under attack.”
Then, on November 3, Republicans blocked the Senate from beginning debate on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Nine of the Senators who voted against beginning debate, last Wednesday, had previously voted for the 2006 Voting Rights Act extension — including Sen. Mitch McConnell. (Read more about the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act here.)
But there are still options available to pass the bills. Read more here.
“We cannot allow Black and Brown voters to be disenfranchised because of a Senate rule that has been repeatedly used to prop up Jim Crow,” said Josh Whittaker of Wilmington, a member of Delaware United’s steering committee.
The bills can still get passed this year, but that would require fixing the filibuster. Read more here.
Delawareans have come out strong for both bills. In August, Delaware’s Senate Majority Leadership and 17 other state legislators sent a letter to Senators Carper and Coons, urging them to support an earlier pro-voter bill and “do whatever it takes to pass it and get it to President Biden’s desk.”
“In Delaware, we have taken numerous steps to protect and expand the ability of our neighbors to vote in our elections,” the legislators’ letter said. “However, we are not immune to the same challenges and obstacles many other states face. We have been unable to pass no-excuse absentee voting due to Republicans who abandoned their initial support in the wake of Trump’s loss. Earlier this year, First State Republicans also sponsored a number of bills similar to the voter suppression measures being filed by their counterparts across our nation. Our country needs national standards to secure the freedom to vote.” Read more here.