A staggering 69% of people who didn’t vote in the 2014 midterm elections, which had historically low turnout, didn’t vote because they were stuck at school or work, or were too busy, out of town, sick or forgot, according to Pew via Wonkblog.
It’s not every day our team gets together with Martin Luther King III, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Questlove and The Roots to rally to get out the vote and protect the right to vote. But that’s exactly what we did this week.
The fathers of Bill Wachtel, our founder, King III and Kennedy Jr. all fought together for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Each of them took turns addressing the incredible crowd at Webster Hall with a simple message: with voter turnout still at horrendous lows despite so many important issues to get out and vote on, we can and we MUST pass a law to make voting accessible, convenient and reliable for every American. Here are a few images from a night none of us will forget:
Wednesday night, we turned a page in our movement to fix our broken voting system. Bringing together leaders from across the political spectrum — including Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Congressman John Larson and dozens of voting experts — we renewed the debate about how to reform our voting system.
Former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott started last night’s discussion by explaining his father’s own struggle with the inconvenience of voting. His father started his shift at the shipyard at 7 AM, and often came home either too late or too tired to make it to the polls before closing. Lott advocated mimicking Louisiana’s practice of weekend voting.
Some other highlights:
Steny Hoyer derided the starving of the Election Assistance Commission. He reminded us of the importance of each and every vote, reflecting on Florida’s 2000 debacle.
WhyTuesday? co-founder, Norm Ornstein criticized the partisanship of voting officials: “If the referees owned shares of the Miami Heat, the fans would have a problem with it. But that’s how we run our elections.”
Academics and lawyers walked us through the history of the Voting Rights Act and what is at stake since the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
While many of our panelists expressed frustration about how hard it is to take the partisanship out of electoral reform, our co-founder Bill Wachtel was adamant that when it comes to our most essential right, voting, morality has to trump politics. “LBJ knew that he was handing Republicans the South when he signed the Voting Rights Act, but there’s a reason it’s the Voting Rights Act and not the Voting Rights Bill.”
John Fund stated in no uncertain terms that he thinks “voting on Tuesday is crazy”, and added that although we need to confront fraud, “This is America. We don’t have to choose between making it easy to vote, and making it hard to cheat.”
Nicole Austin-Hillery asserted that “Voter fraud would be a nonstarter if we brought our voting system up to par.”
Maryland State Senator Jamin Raskin emphasized how important it is for citizens to remain vigilant about protecting the right to vote, by reminding us that it’s a right not expressly guaranteed by The Constitution.
And our wonderful moderator, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, really hit home when he pointed out that only 8% of eligible voters participated in the shocking Virginia primary that unseated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
We’d like to thank all of our incredible speakers for their spirited debate, But this week’s summit was only the beginning. Together, we will end the deafening silence on our broken voting system.
While the world’s most famous democracy ranks 138th out of 172 countries in the world in voter turnout, there remains a deafening silence in Washington about the critical condition of our voting system.
We’re determined to change that. So this week we kick-off a new chapter for Why Tuesday?. Join us today for a summit on election reform, and stay tuned for a new grassroots platform to push for a renewed debate.
WhyTuesday is sponsoring a summit along with The Hill brining together academics, thought leaders, and legislators from across the political spectrum.