Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced plans for a National Nonpartisan Conversation on Voter Rights during a virtual news conference Oct. 6, 2021. (Screenshot from city of Denver)
Two mayors in heavily Democratic cities are calling on local leaders from around the country to come together for a nonpartisan conversation on voter rights.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference Wednesday via Zoom to share some details about the planned main event, which is scheduled for Oct. 22, with a reception on Oct. 21 and closing session Oct. 23. The event is being hosted by the city of Denver in partnership with Colorado Black Women for Political Action.
“Where they can, legislators and interest groups are restricting access to the ballot box away from people and where they can’t do it, they’re doing their level best to render that vote meaningless,” Hancock said. He referred to efforts by conservative state legislatures to limit voting in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
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Following a June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, state laws that restrict voter access are less likely to be struck down under the Voting Rights Act. This year, Republican-controlled states have passed 30 restrictive voting laws in 18 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Such laws include those that shorten the amount of time people have to request a mail ballot before an election, restrict the assistance people can receive in returning their mail ballot, and purge more people from voter registration lists. Experts say that limitations on how and when people can vote disproportionately affect communities of color.
“This is truly the most aggressive wave of voter restrictions that our nation has seen since the Civil Rights Movement,” Lightfoot said.
Hancock said the planned National Nonpartisan Conversation on Voter Rights has echoes of the 1960s civil rights movement, when local leaders from across the U.S. similarly stood up to protect the rights of people of color, assembling for marches in Alabama. The first version of the Voting Rights Act was subsequently passed by Congress in 1965.
Hancock and Lightfoot both voiced support for proposed federal legislation to expand voter rights, which has been stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The event’s supporters so far include basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson; Colorado state Rep. Jennifer Bacon, a Denver Democrat; Amber McReynolds, founding CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition; National League of Cities President Clarence Anthony; Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; the Democratic Mayors Association; African American Mayors Association; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb; and former Colorado state Rep. Wilma Webb, according to a Wednesday press release.
Event details will be posted online on the city of Denver’s website as they become available.
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