AFT President Randi Weingarten joined with the NAACP and other progressive groups this week to launch what she called “an endeavor to save American democracy.”
Coordinated by the NAACP, the “Fighting for Our Vote” campaign will focus on access to the ballot across the nation with particular emphasis on states and cities that have passed restrictive voting laws. The effort will mobilize members of the participating organizations to reach out to people to urge them to register to vote and to demand that local and state elected officials adopt voter protections.
The campaign also will include radio and digital media ads. In addition to the American Federation of Teachers, other groups partnering with the NAACP are the American Civil Liberties Union, AFSCME, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.
Weingarten, who noted that the AFT has consistently backed proposed federal voting rights legislation—such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act—said “teaching kids about enfranchisement and teaching kids about democracy” is something AFT members do every day in school.
Noting that different groups in society may believe different things, at a news conference on Aug. 10 Weingarten said, “We should believe totally together—all of us—that every single vote counts.” Fighting for Our Vote is necessary, she and others said, because this year alone legislators have proposed more than 400 voter suppression bills in 48 states. That legislation has tended to target voters in communities of color.
In a message earlier this month on the anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, Weingarten also said, “The right to vote is as sacred as it is essential. It is critical to our freedom to thrive, no matter our race, ethnicity or income. Our responsibility as citizens is not just to vote; it is to stand up so that everyone who is eligible can vote and every vote is counted. Protecting our democratic principles is patriotic, not partisan.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “This is a fight for America. Fighting for the vote is something we have always done during our 112-year history.”
Like Weingarten, he said the new campaign “is not a partisan conversation. This is about protecting the right to vote.”
Those who pursue voter suppression, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said, “want to rig the political system.” In voicing his union’s support for the campaign, he added, “We must fight further suppression and we must expand voting rights.”
Ronnie Newman, the ACLU’s national political director, also spoke at the campaign launch news conference. He said the voting rights campaign aims to raise safeguards against racial discrimination, continue to expand voting by mail, protect poll workers, support early voting programs—and simply “do more to ensure that all Americans who want to vote can vote, and have their votes counted.”
The Fighting for Our Vote website includes more information about campaign events around the country, as well as links to contact legislators at the state and federal levels.