WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the efforts of President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Senate Majority Leader Schumer to galvanize congressional momentum to introduce and pass legislation to protect voting rights in advance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. NASW applauds today’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
To date, more than 400 bills have been introduced at the state level to suppress the right to vote, with sweeping impacts on communities of color, students, veterans, people living with disabilities, and older adults. These bills would limit or eliminate commonsense mechanisms now in place to ensure access for all Americans to the ballot box.
“For the past year, all efforts for the Senate to consider federal voting legislation including the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4), have been stonewalled by repeat partisan filibusters,” NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW said. “These hostile efforts run contrary to a long history in which voting rights was not a matter of partisan politics, but instead an enduring democratic value upheld across party lines. The continual erosion of these fundamental freedoms constitutes a crisis of democracy.”
This week, Senator Majority Leader Schumer has announced that the Senate Democratic majority will use existing Senate rules to break the Republican filibuster on debate of voting rights legislation. Some Senate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have been skeptical about changing the rules on the filibuster. They must not let arcane Senate rules stand in the way of protecting the freedom to vote. We call on these Senators to get beyond their skepticism and join the Senate Democratic majority and pass voting rights legislation by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The symbolism of the vote timing is fitting of the legacy of Dr. King who once said this about voting: “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind – it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact – I can only submit to the edict of others.”
Protecting the right to vote is synonymous with social work and NASW will continue to work in coalition to advance these essential freedoms.
“We call on Sen. Sinema, a social worker, and all other senators to uphold their most sacred duty to protect the right to vote and to do what is necessary to pass these critically needed bills,” NASW President Mildred “Mit” Joyner, DPS, MSW, LCSW, said. “Every American, no matter where they live, should have the freedom to vote in safe, accessible, transparent elections. If the right to vote is indeed the cornerstone of our democracy, then we cannot allow for continued attacks on this most fundamental freedom.”