VIDEO: Luján Delivers Floor Speech In Defense Of Voting Rights and Democracy

Washington, D.C. – Today,U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)delivered a speech on the Senate floor defending the sacred right to vote. During the speech, Senator Luján made a passionate case in support of the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and urged Senate Democrats to meet this moment by reforming the filibuster to pass this legislation.

Video of the speech is available HERE.

Senator Luján’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:

“I want to start by thanking all of the Senators who have come to the floor to make the case for democracy and voting rights. The right to vote is the heartbeat of our democracy, a symbol of the progress we have made in this chamber, and the promise we have made to the next generation of Americans.

“This legislation will protect the right to vote for all, safeguard against election sabotage, end partisan gerrymandering, and limit the influence of dark money in politics so that billionaires and corporations cannot buy elections.

“Protecting our democracy should not be partisan. It should be a moral and civic imperative for every one of us.

“As Dennis Chávez said, ‘Either we are all free, or we fail; democracy must belong to all of us.’

“Our democracy faces clear and present dangers posed by Republican-led state legislatures across the country.  Some lawmakers want to curtail the right to vote. Not for all Americans, but for the most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised. And if we think it’s bad now, it’s only going to get worse.

“History will not look kindly on inaction at this critical moment. We must show the American people that we will not flinch when faced with the choice to protect our Democracy or let it crumble before our eyes.

“There is a pattern of rampant discrimination that is disenfranchising countless Black and Brown voters across this country.

“In 2005, Jesus Gonzalez became a naturalized citizen. On the same day he swore an oath to the United States, he sought to register to vote in Arizona. He was rejected. He tried again when he obtained a license.

“But again, he was rejected.

“It was then that Mr. Gonzalez, a school janitor, sued the state. His case made its way to the Supreme Court who in 2013, ruled in his favor and struck down Arizona’s law. Mr. Gonzalez was one of 31,000 voters in Arizona affected by such a discriminatory law.

“Just this past September, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund joined other civil rights organizations in suing Texas over its discriminatory voting legislation, known as SB1. Among other things, SB1 seeks to curb the assistance available to limited English-proficient voters.

“And in 2006, MALDEF successfully sued Texas after the state Legislature sought to dilute the Latino vote. In that case, LULAC v. Perry, the Supreme Court found that Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by denying Latinos the ability to elect a candidate of their choosing.

“In 2017, MALDEF again sued in Texas after the City of Pasadena sought to weaken the Latino vote by changing the way the city elected city council members.

“These are just some chapters in a long history of voter suppression.

“We also know that the voter suppression of Native Americans is real, and it is intentional.

“Until 2020, North Dakota voter ID laws required a residential street address. Many Native Americans, like Richard Brakebill, a Navy Veteran, have been denied the right to vote because of an expired driver’s license and a Tribal ID that did not have a current residential address.

“In 2020, the candidacy of Joseph Dedman for county sheriff, a member of the Navajo Nation, was challenged in Arizona because he included post office boxes, which are often the only form of address rural Native American households can obtain, on his petition for office.

“In 2020, Arizona’s Pima County closed the early voting center on Pascua Yaqui lands and spent nearly $200,000 in legal fees rather than reinstate the voting center.

“South Dakota provided a fully funded polling place and early voting and registration opportunities to the 12 non-Native American residents in Gann Valley, but refused to provide the same services to the 1,200 plus residents in Fort Thompson on Crow Creek Tribal lands.

“In 2021, Kimberly Dillon, citizen of Rosebud Sioux Tribe, joined the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribes in suing South Dakota for requiring voters to register at state agencies and DMVs, which are hours away from Tribal lands.

“Many Native Americans like Kimberly went to great lengths to submit their voter registration applications to those state agencies, but the agencies never sent them to local election offices.

“As a result, her right to vote in the 2020 presidential election was taken away.

“Kimberly asked, and I quote, ‘How many other people faced this violation of our basic freedom to vote? We cannot allow voter suppression to continue in South Dakota or anywhere in Native America.’

“These are American citizens whose RIGHTS were taken away from them for partisan advantage.

“Jesus and Kimberly’s voices were taken away from them, just like countless other Americans who face the same discrimination.

“19 states have passed 34 new laws making it easier to sabotage our elections and target voters of color. And not all of them had a supermajority or two-thirds vote. 

“In 2016, Representative David Lewis, a Republican state lawmaker in North Carolina and member of the General Assembly’s redistricting committee, said, and I quote, ‘I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats…because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.’

“States have drawn up racially gerrymandered maps to dilute the power of Black and Brown voters. Followers of the former president, peddling the Big Lie, are running to be election supervisors nationwide.

“There is an uptick in violence as a result of these lies.

“The Department of Homeland Security has seen an increase in calls for violence as a result of these baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

“We are losing honest election officials and poll workers because of threats against their lives due to conspiracy theories and lies pushed by the former president. The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act will protect the vote of working families across the country.

“And only one archaic parliamentary measure prohibits all this progress: the filibuster.

“The filibuster does not increase deliberation in this chamber; it does not incentivize compromise.

“It stands in the way of progress.

“So, while some claim that amending the filibuster would further this country’s division: I disagree.

“Right now, it is only aiding and abetting obstructionists and opponents of progress – when it comes to voting and civil rights legislation.

“While the filibuster is not mentioned a single time in the Constitution, it is too often abused in the Senate. Senators don’t even need to come to and hold the Senate floor to block debate. It lets folks hide in the shadows.

“This is not a measure that inspires belief in our government, nor does it allow our government to function at its full capacity.

“This is not the Senate our founders envisioned.

“If you feel moved to oppose a piece of legislation, if you are passionate about an issue, you should have the COURAGE to come here to the Senate floor in front of your colleagues and the American people.

“You should not be allowed to phone it in from behind closed doors.

“This chamber has changed, just as the times have changed. So, it is the responsibility of every member to restore the Senate to best serve the American people.

“In 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr suggested that the Senate remove from its rules the ‘previous question motion,’ which allowed the chamber’s simple majority to end debate on a bill.

“He viewed the rule as completely unnecessary and urged the Senate to clean up its rule book.

“A year later, the Senate removed the ‘previous question motion’ leaving a loophole that allowed the minority to take advantage and use what we now know as the filibuster. Unfortunately, Burr could not foresee the obstructionism of decades to come.

“In the following decades, pro-slavery senators co-opted the filibuster to protect the interests of white Southern enslavers. Men such as John Calhoun abused the filibuster to obstruct civil rights efforts.

“And according to historians, between 1917 and 1994, 30 measures favored by the sitting president and simple majorities in the House and Senate – half of which addressed civil rights – died in the Senate thanks to the filibuster.

“This same procedural tool proved to be even more useful to Southern senators who sought to block civil rights legislation, including anti-lynching bills.

“Not until 1964 did the Senate successfully overcome a filibuster to pass a major civil rights bill.

“History should act as a teacher to all of us, and history will remind us who voted today on the side of the people. 

“I am proud this effort includes my Native American Voting Rights Act, which will ensure Tribes, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and voters living on Tribal lands have equal access to the electoral process.

“Access to the ballot box is the cornerstone of our democratic system, and without equitable access to it, we cannot stand on the world stage and claim that we are leaders in the fight for liberty and justice for all.

“My Republican colleagues have proven time and time again that they are not interested in acting on this issue.

“Washington Republicans have made the political calculation that they have a partisan advantage here; they are too comfortable shrugging their shoulders and sitting on the sidelines while states chip away at the right to vote.

“I know where I stand, M. President. All we are asking for today is the opportunity to vote on this critical piece of legislation after everyone here has said their piece.

“I urge my colleagues to do the right thing today, to do right by our democracy, and send the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act to the President’s desk.

“Thank you and I yield the floor.”



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