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To: Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Tell the UN: Act to stop racist voter suppression in the US
We, the undersigned clergy, are writing to express grave concern and outrage at White House and U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing attempts to disenfranchise millions of voters. Enfranchisement is essential to human freedom and dignity, to deny citizens’ right to vote is to deny their full humanity. Too many people have bled and died in America’s long fight for voting rights. Their blood cries out against this evil. Racist voter suppression and district gerrymandering undermine the influence of the poor in the political process and allow extremists to get elected and promote policies that exacerbate injustice and inequality.
Why is this important?
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to take part in their country’s government, that civic structures should reflect the will of the people they govern. The United States, at present, stands in clear violation of the Declaration’s mandate for universal and equal suffrage.
President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission sought last week to obtain the personal information of all U.S. voters. This request was widely decried as not only unnecessary — given voter fraud’s virtual non-existence — but also as a likely pretense to further suppress voting blocs that are unlikely to support Republican candidates. Such attempts at disenfranchisement would not be unprecedented. 33 states have passed voter suppression laws that disproportionately affect poor, African American, and Latino voters. Moreover, in the 2016 election there were almost 900 fewer voting sites when compared to 2012. An Associated Press analysis suggested such policies, on top of race-driven gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin, could have given Republicans as many as 22 unearned seats in the House of Representatives
Moreover, black and brown Americans are disproportionately affected by voter suppression efforts, a shameful reincarnation of tactics employed during our nation’s era of racial segregation and Jim Crow. Unfortunately, while our Justice Department has long fought efforts to deny voting rights, it has dramatically changed course under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In February, for example, the Justice Dept. dropped its objection to a racist Texas voter suppression law — one a federal judge later ruled unconstitutional. More recently, In June the Justice Department sent states a letter intended to push state voting commissions to remove more voters from their rolls. Since we can no longer expect our Justice Department to act on behalf of the disenfranchised, we turn instead to the international community, that you might condemn these crimes.
Do not let American democracy continue in its drift towards oligarchy without censure. We implore you to send the strong message that equal and universal suffrage is not an optional commitment, but a fundamental right for all people.