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CNY Voting Rights Advocates Urge Sen. Schumer To Keep Pressing For Sweeping Election Reforms

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Scott Willis
/
WAER News
Activists gather in front of the federal building in Syracuse telling Sen. Schumer not to give up on convincing colleagues to support voting reforms. They even brought a carboard cutout (near center of photo in rear).

Syracuse-area voting rights activists are pleading with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer not to give up in his effort to push through comprehensive legislation when senators return from recess in two weeks. Monday’s gathering of more than three dozen people in front of the federal building is one of nearly 200 “deadline for democracy” events taking place across the country during the break. Christine Wood with Public Citizen told the crowd that provisions of the For the People Act, also known as S-1, need to be in place soon.

"We know that this fall, states are going to start drawing congressional districts, whether we pass S-1 or not. I don't know about you, but I want them to be independently drawn by a non-partisan commission," she said to applause and cheers. "So we need to pass the For the People Act this summer."

A vote to allow debate on the measure failed last week, but senate democrats could try again after recess. S-1, along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, are aimed at protecting the vote in light of state legislatures passing more restrictive measures since the 2020 election. The activists say they’re clearly aimed keeping the elderly, minorities, rural residents, the poor, and new voters from casting ballots. Star Lewis with SEIU 1199 says her vote is just as valuable as anyone else’s.

"There are those in power today who don't want to hear from someone like me. They don't want to hear from a health care worker, a black woman, and a single mother. But as people of color, we have had to fight for our rights, and we cannot and will not go back."

The voting rights measures have their opponents, mostly republicans who bristle at the notion of the federal government imposing more rules on states that can mostly run elections as they see fit. But Tom Keck with the group Indivisible NY-24 says Congress does have the power to override state laws.

"If every state in the country was adequately making it easy enough for people to vote, having the ballots counted fairly and accurately, and having a fair system for drawing districts, then the federal government wouldn't have to step in. But we're talking about congressional elections, and the constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to weigh in on that."

Keck says, though, whether that happens or not is still up in the air. Senate rules require a 60 vote majority on voting rights bills, unless the rules are changed. Senator Schumer’s regional director read a statement at the rally, reassuring the group that the fight against modern day voter suppression is just beginning, and that the senator has reserved the right to bring S-1 up for debate again.

democracy 1.jpg
Scott Willis
/
WAER News

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.