Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—the lead sponsor of the For the People Act, and member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration—issued the following statement today after the Committee’s field hearing in Georgia, underscoring the importance of protecting Americans’ sacred right to vote:
“Georgia has always been in the center of America’s long struggle to deliver on its promise that every citizen gets to have a say in how our country is run. The phenomenal museum where today’s field hearing took place, just a few miles from Dr. King’s—now Senator Warnock’s—pulpit tells a chapter of that national story, an inspiring one of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the name of freedom. But what we heard in today’s field hearing should send shivers down the spines of all Americans who believe in free and fair elections.
“No one should have to wait hours on end in order to cast a ballot. Partisan officials shouldn’t be able to toss out election results because they don’t like the voters’ choice. It shouldn’t matter where you live, how much money you have, or the color of your skin—we all deserve the same chance to cast our ballots and know our vote will count.
“The attacks on voting rights that we heard about today are part of a concerted effort by the wealthy and powerful to make sure they can wield power for their own benefit, no matter what most Americans want. For decades they’ve given themselves massive tax cuts and get out of jail free cards while most people work longer hours for less money and their expenses skyrocket. No wonder most Americans reject that vision. The wealthy special interests know the only way they hold onto power is to revert to a pre-1965 version of America where the right to vote is carefully parceled out depending on where you live, what you look like, and what you believe.
“There is no denying that we have a lot of work ahead of us if we ever want to live up to the principles of freedom and equality for all. These are beautiful principles that inspired our founders at the birth of this nation and generations of Americans who went to battle to defend them. They’ve inspired Americans across the country to come together across race and class and religion to march, organize, and give everything to create a freer and fairer nation. As we mark the one-year anniversary of Congressman John Lewis’s passing this week, it is incumbent on each of us to ask how we can live up to his legacy and protect voting rights for the next generation.
“This Congress has the chance—and the responsibility—to make a powerful contribution to that legacy, by stepping up and protecting Americans’ sacred votes and voices from the diabolical schemes of the rich and powerful extremists. That is going to mean ending partisan gerrymandering, stopping billionaires from buying elections, and making sure that public officials work for the public, not themselves. And we must guarantee that every American has the freedom to cast their ballot free of intimidation and know their vote will count. Americans’ freedom is on the line.”