Young protesters win small victories in struggle for democracy: hungry to vote – News

UN-PAC members protest outside the White House on the ninth day of a 15-day hunger strike in December (courtesy of Shana Gallagher)

Group of 20 students – including one from central Texas – terminated 15 days hunger-strike next to the White House last week with two modest wins: a potential date for the Senate Freedom to Vote Act and a scheduled January meeting with staff members for President Joe Biden.

Let us introduce you A-PAC, a student coalition from the youth movement surrounding Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. Shana gallagher, Austin-based national youth coordinator for Sanders and executive director of the fledgling coalition, said the A-PAC was created to harness momentum around the core issues of young volunteers: expanded access to the vote and end of partisan gerrymandering.

“We organized a lot with the students because Bernie often talks about young people and their importance and power,” said Gallagher, calling from the scene of the ongoing hunger strike. “He was the only candidate in the race with a national student organization that had funds, resources and staff.”

As the A-PAC organized nationally, it strived to reach students in Arizona and West Virginia in particular, the home states of the United States. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe manchin. The hunger strike began at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix and moved to DC after A-PAC had a meeting with Sinema.

Bryce lambeth, a major junior in finance at Texas State University, volunteered to take care of the logistics, a glamorous headline for the guy who brought hunger strikers to various places. “I was working on the Bernie campaign a bit. Then Shana contacted me and told me about the Freedom to Vote Act,” Lambeth said. “After reading it, I was really excited about it. And I realized how important it was.”

The free vote bill, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and other Congressional Democrats in September, contains many elements of People’s Law, who failed to make it to the Senate. Texas Democrats, including lawmakers who broke the quorum and fled the state to avoid the First Special Session of the 87th Texas Legislature and the “electoral integrity” measures of their GOP colleagues, also lobbied for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore and update the protections of the landmark 1965 legislation that were removed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

“It is unfortunate and depressing that democratic reform has become a partisan issue in the United States Senate and in state legislatures across the country. We know that Conservative voters overwhelmingly support reforms to the freedom to vote law. ” – UN-PAC Executive Director Shana Gallagher

Un-PAC agrees with Texas Democratic stars as state officials. Trey Martinez Fischer, from San Antonio, Gina Hinojosa from Austin, and Jasmin crockett of Dallas (a prominent U.S. House candidate in 2022 herself), who each traveled to Washington to meet with the hunger strikers, that voting rights and protecting democracy are issues that cross state borders and deserve national attention. But Gallagher is quick to point out that the A-PAC is intentionally non-partisan.

“I have certainly been inspired and grateful to Democrats, but I think it is important to stress that it is unfortunate and depressing that democratic reform has become a partisan issue in the United States Senate and in the United States. state legislatures across the country, ”said Gallagher. “We know that Conservative voters overwhelmingly support the reform of the freedom to vote law. It has very unfortunately become a partisan issue.”

Un-PAC sought to meet with Texas senators, both Republicans. Asked about the freedom to vote law, the senator John cornyn said to the Chronicle via a spokesperson, he considers that the bill is unconstitutional because it removes the authority given to states to organize their elections. Instead, this authority would be centralized in DC; the bill would do the Federal Election Commission a more partisan body, would allow what Cornyn sees as collection of ballot papers, and would discourage voter’s card requirements. “All of this, I believe, is intended to weaken the integrity measures built into the voting system that most states, including Texas, have,” said Cornyn.

In total, in 2021 alone, 19 states passed 34 laws that will restrict voters’ access to polling stations, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Texas’ Senate Bill 1, which was eventually passed after the Democrats returned to Austin, and went into effect on Dec. 2, stands out from the Brennan Center as one of the more aggressive efforts to limit the franchise. (During the same period, 25 states, blue and red, adopted measures that expanded access to the vote.)

Texas law prohibits some of the most innovative strategies that increased voter turnout in 2020, such as drive-thru lanes, 24-hour polling stations, and eligibility and access. larger in postal voting. The law also provides penalties for election officials who deny access to election observers, and requires those who assist voters to swear an oath that they will not interfere or coerce the voter.

Un-PAC has set an informal deadline of Martin Luther King Jr Day that the Senate adopt the law on the freedom to vote. If the vote has not taken place by January 17, the A-PAC will consider other ways to step up its tactics.

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