FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 10, 2022

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Ross Sherman, RepresentUs PR Strategist, 207-749-2660, rsherman@represent.us

 

A bipartisan panel of elected officials and activists agreed that both federal and state action is urgently needed to protect free and fair elections during the Road to American Democracy Summit panel Friday evening. Hosted by RepresentUs and Actor/Comedian Ed Helms, the right-left event featured former Maryland Lt. Gov. and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Reps. Mondaire Jones and John Sarbanes, End Citizens United/Let America Vote’s Porsha White, and Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer.

The panel began by discussing what happened with the For the People Act, the landmark voter access legislation that would strengthen representation, reduce money in politics, and respond to growing anti-democratic sentiment. While RepresentUs and many pro-democracy allies made significant progress getting the bill close to the finish line, senators blocked it with a filibuster in January.

“We fell short, unfortunately, in January but the good news is we don’t start from scratch when we get our next opportunity – and there will be a next opportunity,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, who was an original cosponsor on the For the People Act. “We’ve got the bill. We don’t have to build a new car – we just gotta get new drivers for the car.”

“I don’t have fond memories of the filibuster,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones, the youngest member of the Democratic House leadership team and the first openly gay Black member of Congress. “Folks who look like me don’t have fond memories of the filibuster.”

With the For the People Act stalled for now, panelists discussed the prospects of other federal efforts to safeguard democracy, including reforming the Electoral Count Act. When asked, Michael Steele said “there is momentum” to get it done.

All of the panelists highlighted the many states that have passed laws since the 2020 election that restrict access to the ballot box.

“This year alone we’ve seen 13 states who have enacted anti-voting bills, we’ve had nearly 600 bills restricting the freedom to vote be introduced in 40 states. This is still a fight that people are having every day at home,” warned Porsha White. “Find out what is happening in your state right now, find out what laws have been passed since the 2020 elections to change the way you are going to be able to access the ballot.”

With the threat of authoritarian takeover looming, panelists called Americans of all political stripes to action to stand up and protect free and fair elections.

“It is the threat of autocracy in this country – of giving up our democracy,” said Fred Wertheimer. I believe we are in a battle to maintain our democracy. We have to win it and people have to engage. If we want to keep it a democracy, we’re going to have to fight like hell to make sure it stays a democracy.”

“If the Freedom to Vote Act is important to us, if voting rights are important to us, then we need to make sure and hold accountable those folks who are standing in the way of getting those pieces of legislation done,” said Michael Steele.

The panel was the first in the Road to American Democracy Summit virtual series. The goal of the series, and the in-person gathering at American Democracy Summit in Spring 2023, is to gather the brightest minds in the pro-democracy movement across party lines to tackle election threats.

You can watch the full video here.

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RepresentUs is America’s leading nonpartisan organization fighting to protect and strengthen democracy. We unite unlikely allies from across the political spectrum who put country over party to pass pro-democracy laws, fight corruption, and defeat authoritarian threats. We have won more than 150 victories in cities and states across America since our founding 10 years ago. Each win is one step closer to our vision of making America the world’s strongest democracy.