The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We are proud to submit testimony in support of H6003, an omnibus bill to address barriers to voting and help to ensure that we are all able to make our voices heard at the ballot box.
Our vote is our voice. Our vote is our chance to have a say in who makes key decisions about our health, our families and our lives. We should do more to ensure that people are able to vote, and not allow our right to vote to be trampled on our taken away.
The Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965 after years of people of color enduring violence and mistreatment when they tried to register or to exercise our right to vote. The VRA was meant to prohibit the practices that were designed to humiliate and to exclude people of color from voting, but the fact is that across the country we are still fighting limitations on who gets to vote either intentionally through disenfranchisement like voter ID or voter roll purges or through a lack of attention to what true accessibility requires. These limits have a disparate impact on people of color and other people who are pushed to the margins and silenced. In this time when we are working to dismantle systemic oppression, getting rid of obstacles to enfranchisement and access to the ballot is beyond critical.
The Womxn Project is proud to speak out with “Let RI Vote” and our partners across the state to advance this legislation, which would improve the ability of Rhode Islanders to vote by mail and to vote early, as well as to enhance the voter registration process through online registration and improved voter roll maintenance.
In recent years we have seen coordinating attacks on voting rights and ballot access and unfounded questions about the validity of our elections. This presents a grave threat to our democracy. It also upholds the systems that maintain white supremacy and limit access to reproductive healthcare, and obstruct access to health care for Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Voting is intrinsically linked to pushing for the change that our families need and our communities deserve.
We must do more to secure voting reforms to ensure every single person feels safe voting and can vote if they want. This will be critical to real social change even after we have moved past the immediate crisis of the pandemic. Fortunately, we have a roadmap to begin to make that happen.
We need to ensure early in-person voting period to allow voters to cast their ballots over a spread-out period rather than in a cluster on Election Day and to allow for voting on the weekend. In this moment, this has allowed for there to be less people in-person at once to provide for social distancing, but this policy also means that folks who do not have paid time off available to get out on a specific Tuesday to vote and who may struggle for a one-day only option are not denied their right to vote. We know that people in low-wage jobs who can’t afford to take unpaid time are also more likely to be denied paid time to vote. Early voting would help address this inequity. Allowing absentee or voting-by-mail for all without needing to provide a reason is also a way to address these issues.
We are committed to taking action to dismantle white supremacy. This must include addressing the barriers to shaping the system that has so much of an impact not only on our lives, but also on the culture and the way in which marginalized people are treated, viewed and included.
Whether we are looking at the need to aggressively take on systemic oppression or the continued gaps in access to healthcare, voting is part of that work. We all need to know that our voices will be heard. We need to make voting work for everyone. There is still work to do, but this is an important first step. We urge you to support H6003. Thank you for your consideration.
Contact: Barbara Colt ([email protected] or 401-400-0061)