Senator Jeff Merkley, League of Conservation Voters, and Environmental Justice Advocates Weigh in on the For the People Act

Mika Hyer, mhyer@lcv.org, 940-783-2230

Washington, D.C. — On Thursday at 1:00pm EST, LCV hosted a virtual event, For the People Act: Strengthening America’s Democracy and Fighting for Environmental Justice, a discussion with lead S1 sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Nicole Morales, Chispa Arizona’s Civic Engagement Director, Michelle Martinez, Executive Director of Michigan EJ Action, and moderated by  Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., LCV Board Member and President of the Hip Hop Caucus.

This year, 43 states have already introduced, prefiled, or carried more than 250 bills to restrict or limit voting access — intentionally written to suppress the record numbers of Black and Brown voters who overcame barriers to vote last year. Enacting the For The People Act, introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, will supersede these suppressive state laws that disproportionately silence people of color, young people, and people with disabilities and modernize our voting system to ensure a consistent and accessible process for voters across the country — particularly for those whose communities are devastated by polluter interests.

See LCV’s statement celebrating the introduction of S1 from LCV Voting Rights Program Director Justin Kwasa here.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, the lead Senate sponsor of the For the People Act, described the impacts of voter suppression on communities of color:

“Communities of color often bear the environmental burden of polluters contaminating their water, their air, and their homes. A healthy democracy—one in which ‘one person, one vote’ is not just a slogan but a reality—is a key step towards environmental justice. Frontline communities—particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color—must have a seat at the table to find community-based solutions and prioritize these pressing climate issues. Voter suppression laws prevent Americans from making their voices heard by making the process difficult to navigate, difficult to access, and disproportionately targeting the votes of Black and Brown Americans. Strengthening our nation’s democracy shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Our nation is built on government of, by, and for the people—and it’s time to fully restore that vision.”

LCV Board Member and President of the Hip Hop Caucus Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. discussed how S1 would strengthen democracy for populations unable to access their voting rights:

“Now more than ever, electoral reform must be a priority. Black communities, Indigenous communities, communities of color, and low-wealth communities historically bear the burden of the environmental crisis and face legislative barriers to access one of our nation’s most fundamental rights — the right to vote. The For the People Act is a fundamental piece of legislation to ensure that voters can trust our elections, hold their elected officials accountable, and exercise their right to cast a ballot during these uncertain times — whether it be at the ballot box, at the polls, from their home, or overseas. LCV is committed to working with our state partners to advocate for the Senate to implement a stronger democracy, for the people of our nation.”

Chispa Arizona’s Civic Engagement Director Nicole Morales discussed how Arizona’s suppressive voter laws have impacted Arizonans:

“Harmful legislation targeting Latinx communities in Arizona has silenced voters within their own community. Arizona’s lawmakers are systemically sabotaging the voting rights of not only Latinx voters, but also Indigenous voters, through their attempts to limit opportunities for voter registration, create barriers to absentee vote, purge voting lists, implement stricter voter ID laws, and even introduce a bill to take away the voting commission’s ability to certify an election. The For the People Act would help protect the voice and rights of all voters across our nation to strengthen our democracy, despite a state’s attempts to silence them.”

Michigan EJ Action Executive Director Michelle Martinez highlighted the impacts of pollution from industries in Detroit:

“Black, Latinx, Arab American, and Indigenous communities in Michigan are suffering disproportionately from decades, years, and generations of fossil fuel and other industrial pollution. My community and others like it are the targets of voter suppression legislation designed to keep them separated from the political process…and make life-altering decisions that led to the Flint water crisis. We want to keep those people most impacted by pollution involved in the decision-making process, and stop the perpetuation of environmental racism. S1 would be a key step in the road to equitable participation in our democracy, it will help reduce critical barriers to participation in a free and fair election — helping to restore power to the people and put faith back in the system. Communities who are most impacted by toxic pollution, systemic racism, and disenfranchisement deserve to be heard.”

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