1,000 signatures reached
To: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Dear Attorney General Sessions: Take a public stand for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act
We write to invite you to take a public stand for the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act in 2017.
This battle should not be a partisan one. It is a question of legal and moral duty to the country and an imperiled democracy. In our recent past, the Voting Rights Act enjoyed bipartisan majority support. What now has changed? We know claims of vast voter fraud are proven lies, but the courts have shown that voter suppression efforts are alive and well in our country. The time for restoration of the Voting Rights Act is now. Stand with us against the gutting of the Civil Rights Division—the heart of the Department—and agree to end the misguided reversals of its critical civil rights guidance. Fully endorse the Department of Justice’s role in enforcing the VRA. Reject dangerous misinformation about voter fraud. Renew DOJ’s commitment to the equal protection under the law of Black lives and the lives of all in our borders against discrimination based on race, color, sex, disability, national origin, religion, familial status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Why is this important?
We are alive again in a time of unprecedented attacks on the hard-won voting rights of African Americans and all people of color. Your new office at Main Justice—adorned with the photographs of influential, courageous civil servants—is a weathered but enduring symbol of the best and the worst of our nation’s history and the power of the law to protect those seeking to overcome the tyrannies of racism and inequality.
Prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act, a predecessor of yours, Robert F. Kennedy, was sworn into the office as the 64th Attorney General in a time of national turmoil. The building housing your office now honors his name. Yet at that time, many predicted that he could not be a full friend to civil rights— that he could not identify with the plight of African Americans and those in the pits of poverty, living under the yoke of subjugation and centuries of oppression. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, though, made a choice. After far too many spilled their blood marching unbowed in defense of our children’s futures and our dignity, the Department of Justice did not sit out in the fight for Black political power and the fundamental right to vote. The Department of Justice took a side. It was the side required by the Constitution then, and it is required by the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act now. Where there was resistance to equal opportunity and equal rights for all citizens, Attorney General Kennedy’s Department, imperfectly, but in accordance with the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, the anti-poll tax Amendment of 1962—and then, instrumentally, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964—stood with the people fighting for our dignity, justice, and the soul of American democracy.
Now, as then, not one of us can stand on the sidelines. Least of all the Department of Justice. It is our belief that we must choose which side of history we will inhabit, and that each new day and every new role we take on holds within it a possibility to choose the right side. As the newly-confirmed 84th Attorney General of the United States, the time to choose is now undeniably upon you. The Voting Rights Act, an act you hold chief responsibility to provide oversight for is not and never has been—as we believe you would now agree—“a piece of intrusive legislation.” This act is the heart of our country’s obligation to the martyrs of Selma and signals nationwide that racism will not control our country’s future.
Your predecessor Robert F. Kennedy famously said, "Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." You are beginning on a new journey. As thousands gather in Selma on this historic occasion, as our chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Sessions, we call on you to stand now for fully restored voting rights, human rights, and for equal justice under the law.
If you are willing, please reply affirmatively to this request. We welcome your endorsement of the immediate renewal of the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. If you are unwilling, we will not be moved in our determination to demand that we live up to the full promises and obligations of our Constitution and to stand with the people of these United States against the scourge of racism and for our deepest held moral values.
In the struggle for Truth and Justice,
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
The Rev. Dr. Traci D. Blackmon
Penda Hair, Esq.
Rabbi Lucy H.F. Dinner
Hank Sanders, Esq.
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner
Irving Joyner, Esq.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
The Rev. Mark Thompson
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
The Rev. Noel Castellanos
The Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson
The Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews
The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis
The Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei,
Bishop Gene Robinson
The Rev. Brian McLaren