Rep. Terri Sewell, mentee of the late Rep. John Lewis, said she is not backing down on the voting rights bills that failed to pass the Senate. Sewell announced on the 57th commemoration of Bloody Sunday that she plans to reintroduce the Freedom to Vote Act upon her reelection, reported NBC News. She is currently Alabama’s only Black member of Congress.
To Sewell, voting rights aren’t just policy but personal as she was raised in Selma, the main hub where our civil rights heroes had organized. Now, as Alabama and other southern states begin reintroducing restrictions on voters, the right to vote for Black people and people of color is at risk.
From NBC News:
In Alabama alone, 23 bills have been introduced “that would allow for excessive voter purging, permit racial and partisan gerrymandering, and encourage voter intimidation, and implement stricter voter I.D. requirements,” leaders of multiple civil rights organizations said a recent statement.
The Supreme Court halted a lower court order last month requiring Alabama to redraw its new congressional map. Last year, a panel of federal judges struck down the map because it did not provide for two majority-minority districts. While Black people are about 27 percent of Alabama’s population, they are represented in only one of its seven congressional seats.
Sewell said the court order was “another blow to the fight for fair Black political representation” which is “at the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” She also said, via NBC that “change rarely comes in the halls of Congress without agitation” and that both legislators and citizens must keep the pressure on to secure freedom to vote.
Sewell originally introduced the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate. This latest version of H.R. 4 would restore a part of the Voting Rights Act that prohibited voter suppression tactics such as manipulating the right of people of color to vote, restricting voting access and registration or any other discriminatory practice upon an upcoming election.
“We have to remember John’s words: ‘Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part,” Sewell said, via NBC. “We can be disappointed or frustrated. But we must never be deterred. Your vote does matter.”