Letter: Support Voting Rights on MLK Jr. Day

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To the Editor:

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s family has requested that there be "no celebration" on the upcoming weekend in his honor until the federal voting rights legislation is enacted.

A group of concerned citizens, in an effort to honor Dr. King's memory, met to discuss what to do. We represent a number of organizations across Berkshire County.

As a collective, we are sincerely concerned about the recent attack on the rights of citizens to vote. Voting rights are the cornerstone of Dr. King's legacy. To truly honor that legacy, we agreed that it is time to rise up to "make some good noise" to protect and strengthen our democracy by doing all we can to support and protect free and fair elections in both parties, for all people.

As reported by the Brennan Center, 19 states passed over 33 discriminatory laws in 2021 that will make it harder for Americans, especially Americans of color, to vote. Moreover, more than 440 state legislative bills in 49 states offered provisions to restrict voting access. It is up to Congress and President Biden to reverse this ominous trend.

The Freedom to Vote Act, currently before the Senate, is a comprehensive package of voting, redistricting, and campaign finance reforms that would strengthen our democracy and promote racial equity for all Americans. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has passed in the House, would complement the Freedom to Vote Act. It would largely prevent the implementation of changes to voting rules that discriminate on the basis of race or language minority status, and it would restore voters' robust ability to challenge discriminatory laws as established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 but gutted in the Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder.

We ask that citizens across the county join us by taking at least ONE SPECIFIC ACTION in support of voting rights to honor the memory of the Rev. Dr. King this month, and continue your support throughout this critical election year.

What to do? Telephone, text and email your legislative representatives, encouraging them to work enthusiastically at their level of government for open, fair and accessible elections. Additionally, please reach out with care to friends and family in other states to enlist their help. We have compiled resources here. We have also compiled a statement of support for election workers, to ask local leaders to adopt in action.

We also encourage everyone to attend Berkshire Community College's virtual Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, which will focus on voting rights in accordance with the wishes of the King family; Monday, Jan. 17, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In this way, we envision a surge of public support for these national initiatives to maintain integrity in the voting process and the enriched support and awareness of all elections in all the United States.

With urgency and on behalf of democracy,

Berkshire County Chapter NAACP, Dennis Powell, Pittsfield

Berkshire Democratic Brigades, Michael Wise, Great Barrington

First Congregational Church, North Adams, Lynn Rhoads

First Congregational Church, Williamstown,  Lynn Chick, moderator

Four Freedoms Coalition, Sherwood Guernsey, Williamstown

Great Barrington Democratic Committee, Michael Wise, Great Barrington

Greylock Together, Alexander Davis, Jessica Dils, Wendy Penner, Williamstown

League of Women Voters Central Berkshire, Ramelle Pulitzer, Stockbridge

Left Field, Alyson Slutzky, Great Barrington

Rural Freedom Network, Sherwood Guernsey, Williamstown

Williamstown Democratic Town Committee, Arlene Kirsch, Hugh L Guilderson

Williamstown League of Women Voters, Anne Skinner

Concerned citizens: Paula Consolini and Jim Mahon, Williamstown

Tags: MLK Day,   voting,   

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