Georgia leaders join 50-state voting-rights project

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery and state Rep. Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, on Wednesday helped launch a 50-state project aimed at protecting the right to vote.

The program, by the American Values First coalition, aims to raise awareness of state laws that hinder voters’ access to the polls as well as states that have adopted progressive voting laws. Abrams and Lowery were joined by lawmakers from other states who were in Atlanta for the National Conference of State Legislature’s annual Legislative Summit.

“There must be something to this vote, because they spend so much time and money trying to take it away,” Lowery said, referring to Republican legislators and governors as “Dixiecrats,” an old label for Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights measures, including the Voting Rights Act.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule a key section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional has only increased the need for action, supporters said.

“It’s not a racial issue,” Abrams, the state House Democratic leader, said. “It cuts across race, across age. A lot of the voting rights laws affect senior citizens. Those are populations that vote Democrat and Republican.”

While the project is billed as nonpartisan, its focus is largely on states were Republicans control the legislature.

Georgia’s voter ID laws were not a focus of the news conference Wednesday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor. Abrams said the goal was not to focus on individual states, but to get all 50 states to work together.

“To the extent we approach this piecemeal, we’re going to get picked off,” she said. “(We want to) call out in a nationwide level those laws that are suppressing voting rights.”

An example, she said, was North Carolina, where the Republican-led Legislature has revoked residents’ ability to register to vote on the day of elections and made it more difficult to register.

Abrams said they also want to praise states such as Colorado, which recently passed a same-day registration law, or Oregon, which allows voters to cast ballots by mail.