by Robin Kemp
In a speech Tuesday, Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock warned his Congressional colleagues that “time is running out” for American democracy and urged them to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Warnock also called out Republican members of the Georgia Assembly–which convenes Wednesday, January 5–the Texas Legislature, and Senate colleagues who use segregation-era “state’s rights” arguments to scale back voting rights:
Here is a transcript of Warnock’s remarks:
“Let’s be really clear, our democracy is imperiled and time is running out. This is a moral moment. If we fail to protect the voices and the votes of the American people, then we have fallen way short of our responsibility as members of this body.
“In the state of Georgia right now, as the state legislature comes together for a new session, there is an effort to get rid of every drop box in the state—think about that—in the middle of a pandemic, with the Omicron variant, and we don’t know what the days ahead will bring. Their duty is to get rid of drop boxes— what will that do for rural voters who are trying to exercise their vote? What about workers on the night shift?
“It is very clear what the Republican Party is up to— they are trying to make it harder for some people to vote and easier to cheat. We’re trying to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. And I predict that over the next few days, you’re going to hear the same Republicans give a lot of lip service to bipartisanship. I believe in bipartisanship, I’d like to see us participate in a bipartisan way, which is why I had hoped they would have allowed us to have a debate on the voting bills that are in front of us. That’s what they blocked three times in the Senate— our ability to have a bipartisan debate about an issue that the American people are debating over right now.
“I don’t usually do this. But I happen to be sitting in the chair presiding over the Senate this morning. When one of my colleagues from Texas Senator Cornyn began to attack our efforts to push forward these reasonable voting laws. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Freedom to Vote Act. And he tried to mischaracterize what we were doing.
“Let me be very clear the elections are still run by the states. We’re just trying to provide a federal baseline that says everybody ought to have access— every eligible American has to have access to the ballot. And I find it ironic I don’t usually do this but I find it ironic that the senator from Texas would stand here and push against these proposals and give lip service to bipartisanship when members of the State Legislature in Texas had to come here just a few months ago, to break quorum to keep their colleagues from passing some of the most repressive voting, anti-democratic measures that we’ve seen in the state of Texas and a longtime.
“Members of his own legislature had to come here, leave their families, leave their children, to keep them from passing these terrible voter suppression bills— which are not bipartisan and not bipartisan in Texas, not bipartisan in Georgia.
“Then at the same time, they’re saying to us, we can’t pass these because, you know, this happens at the state level. I’m the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached and I take great umbrage when Members of this body would use old trite states rights arguments, the same kinds of states rights arguments that were used against Dr. King back then, to push against reasonable access to the ballot right now.
“Many of these same politicians will stand up in just a few days and they will give lip service to Martin Luther King Jr. Well, you cannot remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Freedom to Vote Act is the legacy of Dr. King and if you would give lip service to his name, you need to find yourself on the right side of history pushing to get these bills done.
“I urge my colleagues to do the right thing if those on the other side refuse to do it. The Democrats will have to act alone— but by all means— we have to act. Dr. King’s words are as true now as they were back then: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ Time’s running out. Let’s get the job done.”
See all Georgia legislation that has been prefiled at https://www.legis.ga.gov/search?s=1029&cs=1&p=1.