Voting rights advocates urge Congress to realize John Lewis’ vision—that democracy includes everyone

Washington, DC — Thousands of advocates in 42 states across the country held more than 150 Good Trouble Candlelight Vigils for Democracy,” yesterday to mark one year since the passing of Rep. John Lewis. The vigils celebrated his extraordinary legacy and called on Congress to pass critical legislation to protect the freedom to vote, end gerrymandering, and get money out of politics to realize Rep. Lewis’ vision for a democracy that works for all of us. 

As part of this, in Washington, DC, the Declaration for American Democracy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, DC Vote, and the Transformative Justice Coalition, hosted a vigil with members of Congress, including Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-Del) and Joyce Beatty (OH-3), and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), in addition to leaders in the faith community and the movement to transform our democracy. The vigil featured a march from Black Lives Matter Plaza to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where advocates laid a wreath to pay tribute to Rep. Lewis’ incredible life. 

“Yesterday, America witnessed more than 150 Good Trouble Candlelight Vigils affirming that John Lewis’ spirit lives on,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition. “In his tradition, we must marshal all of our commitment and resolve to engage in concerted direct action until passage of the For The People Act, DC Statehood and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act! We will invoke the legacy of John Lewis as we march, protest, conduct peaceful civil disobedience and call on the Senate for urgent action to protect all of our nation’s voters.” 

“Voting is the language of democracy. It impacts every aspect of our lives today, and the lives our children will lead tomorrow. But the right to vote is in peril as some politicians are trying their hardest to take us backwards by creating barriers for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and new Americans. We are at an inflection point in our nation — one that requires urgent action. Congress must come together to protect the freedom to vote for all Americans by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the For the People Act, and the Washington, DC Admission Act,” said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Six months have passed since the failed attack on our nation and our democracy on January 6th. Since that day, anti-voter laws have been passed in states all over the country and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings have made clear that it will not act to protect the sacred right to vote. This Summer, Congressional districts risk being redrawn in a way that will allow politicians to choose their voters – rather than the voters fairly choosing who represents them.

“We’re encouraged by the real momentum in Congress to work towards passing sweeping legislation to protect the freedom to vote, but the clock is ticking,” said Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy. “To achieve a political system that is inclusive for all, Congress must delay the August recess until the For the People Act is the law of the land—and Congress cannot let the Jim Crow filibuster stand in the way.”

The Good Trouble Candlelight Vigils for Democracy were hosted by the Declaration for American Democracy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Transformative Justice Coalition, in partnership with local organizations and advocates on the frontlines of the fight to protect the freedom to vote. 

This drive contains downloadable public use photos and videos from the event. 

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What does the For the People Act (S. 1/H.R. 1) do?

The For the People Act is a sweeping package to realize the promise of our democracy, get big money out of politics, ensure our freedom to vote, and guarantee that congressional districts are drawn to give fair representation for all.

Together we can realize a democracy that represents, reflects, and responds to all of us.

Gets big money out of politics.

The For the People Act (H.R. 1):

  • counters the Citizens United decision
  • establishes a voluntary small donor public financing system for House races
  • enacts the DISCLOSE Act
  • reveals who's funding dark money groups
  • strengthens the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals
  • enacts the Honest Ads Act
  • reveals who's buying online political ads
  • enacts the Stand By Every Ad Act
  • requires political ad buyers to reveal their top donors and chief officials
  • mandates greater transparency from tax-exempt organizations
  • requires publicly traded companies to consult with shareholders before spending on politics
  • leads to disclosure of contributions by government contractors
  • holds presidential inaugural committees accountable
  • pilots a voucher program, so voters can contribute to candidates of their choice
  • establishes a small donor matching system for Congressional elections
  • reforms the presidential public financing program
  • empowers more people to run by allowing federal candidates who are not incumbents to use part of their campaign funds for childcare and certain other expenses
  • encourages small dollar donations to political party committees
  • overhauls the FEC
  • cracks down on Super PAC-Candidate coordination
  • requires disposal of unused campaign funds
Makes voting simpler, safer, and fairer.

The For the People Act (H.R. 1):

  • commits to restore and update the full protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) — the most effective civil rights legislation in the history of the United States
  • commits to protect and promote Native American voting rights
  • ensures access to voting for individuals with disabilities
  • supports DC statehood
  • supports federal voting rights for Americans living in US territories
  • enacts the Redistricting Reform Act of 2019
  • bans partisan and racial gerrymandering
  • adopts independent redistricting commissions
  • combats cyberattacks, election hacking, and disinformation campaigns
  • promotes online voter registration in federal elections nationwide
  • requires automatic voter registration for federal elections nationwide
  • allows same day registration for federal elections nationwide
  • prevents voter roll purges
  • makes registration deadlines line up with public holidays
  • requires USPS to remind movers to update their voter registration
  • creates grants to boost youth involvement in election activities
  • provide additional state funding to update registration processes
  • prohibits interference with voter registration
  • standardizes voter registrations across states
  • expands pre-registration for future voters currently 16 or older
  • prohibits voter caging
  • enacts the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act
  • restores federal voting rights to those disenfranchised by a prior criminal conviction
  • adopt paper ballots
  • strengthen provisional balloting
  • create a nationwide standard for early voting
  • expand opportunities to vote by mail
  • protect voting rights for absent military and overseas voters
  • provides grants for more poll workers
  • enhances enforcement of existing standards
  • prevents conflicts of interest with chief state election officials
  • allows public universities to become voter registration agencies
  • lets students vote where they attend school
  • requires a weeks' notice to change polling places
  • allows a sworn statement option for voter ID requirements
  • makes absentee ballots postage-free
  • helps states process absentee ballots
  • strengthens voter information support
  • standardizes polling place hours of operation
  • improves the Election Assistance Commission
  • funds election security upgrades
  • increases communication about threats to state election systems
Holds public officials accountable.

The For the People Act (H.R. 1):

  • requires sitting presidents, vice presidents, and major-party candidates for those offices to disclose their tax returns
  • requires a code of ethics for the United States Supreme Court
  • updates and enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
  • increases federal lobbying disclosure requirements
  • requires presidential appointees to recuse themselves from government matters to which the president or their spouse is a party
  • ensures easy public access to lobbying information
  • requires the president and vice president to divest from any personal financial holdings that could pose a conflict of interest with their official duties
  • demands transparency for White House ethics waivers
  • strengthen ethics enforcement in the executive branch
  • requires more disclosure of political donations and fundraising by cabinet members and other senior appointees
  • makes presidents-elect adopt and enforce ethics rules for their transition teams
  • requires all senior executive branch appointees to take an ethics pledge
  • restricts travel on private aircraft by cabinet members and other senior appointees
  • makes Members of Congress pay any awards or settlements in connection to claims of workplace harassment
  • prohibits House members from serving on the boards of for-profit companies
  • bars Members of Congress and staff from trying to make laws to make themselves rich
  • requires candidates to disclose if they get donations from registered lobbyists
  • creates a searchable, public online portal for all reports to Congress
  • requires reporting of outside compensation for congressional staff

What is the Declaration for American Democracy?

A Coalition of 200+ Member Organizations

The Declaration for American Democracy is an anti-oppression coalition working together to make the promise of democracy real for all of us.

We believe our democratic systems, institutions, and leaders must reflect, represent, and respect the diverse, multicultural nation that we are and have always been. For democracy to work for all of us, it must include all of us and address the deep systemic, institutional challenges that continue to block meaningful progress to this day. As America’s diversity continues to grow, so must our democracy.

Our Mission

Today our democracy faces crises on multiple fronts -- compounded by a deeply problematic history that has held us back from achieving an inclusive and equitable multiracial  nation since our founding. Powerful corporations and wealthy special interests use their money and influence to shape public policy priorities. Extremist politicians are putting up deliberate barriers to block access to the ballot box and silence the voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, AAPI, low-income, LGBTQIA, disability, and other marginalized communities. State legislatures are manipulating Congressional maps to allow politicians to pick their voters and hoard power for their political parties. And our government has failed to respond after four years of a corrupt administration and Supreme Court decisions gutting voting rights protections and anti-corruption laws.

Working together, we are committed to passing national standards, including the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and DC Statehood, to transform our political system and move our country closer to realizing the true promise of democracy. However, we will not be satisfied with any single reform and will continue to press for the structural changes necessary to rebalance power for the people and undo the historic harms that have barred communities that have been marginalized and denied political power since the founding of the United States.

We believe people of color, young people, people with disabilities, language minorities, and other historically disenfranchised communities should have equal access to the ballot and be equitably represented in government. We believe everyday people should have a stronger voice in elections than wealthy donors and special interests. And we believe our government should be transparent and accountable to the people.

Together we must ensure the freedom to vote is a fundamental American right and that the people -- regardless of our color, our background, or our zip code - hold the power, not the wealthy and corporations.

Our Vision

Therefore, we, the Declaration for American Democracy, are committed to working together to achieve this vision and model our values in how we work together. As a coalition, we will invest in each other and treat each other with respect. We will acknowledge and learn from our past, including the legacy of racism and white supremacy in our movement and democratic institutions. In decision making we will center Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, AAPI, LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, language minorities, as well as other impacted communities. And we will invest in each other through professional development, collaborative grantmaking, and shared projects.

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