Organizers for the upcoming Votercade on Saturday, May 8, have announced the official route and Grand Marshall for the public protest calling for expanded voting rights in honor of Civil Rights icon and late Georgia Congressman John Lewis.
“People in cars, bikes, and walking will traverse a 1.5-mile route through Madison’s historic Canaan neighborhood on May 8, celebrating the National John Lewis Day of Action for Voting Rights,” said Jeanne Dufort, one of the Votercade organizers. “Leading the way will be a contingent of youth, carrying a 14-foot banner honoring civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis. The Votercade Grand Marshall will be Pastor W.J. Reid, president of the Ministers Union and pastor emeritus of Springfield Baptist Church.”
According to Dufort, “Pastor Reid was honored in 2015 at the Living Legacy Gala, held by the Morgan County African American Museum for decades of triumphs over adversity in our community and beyond.”
“It’s fitting Pastor Reid will serve as our Grand Marshall, behind the banner commemorating the late John Lewis. As we recommit ourselves to the cause of Voting Rights for all, we must be mindful of those who lead by example,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman.
The Votercade in Madison is happening in conjunction with other protests all across America at the same time on National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day on Saturday, May 8 to demonstrate for the strengthening of democracy and calling to restore the Voting Rights Act. Lewis notoriously fought for expanding voting rights throughout his entire political career and famously said, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Madison’s event will include Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, the Morgan County Branch of the NAACP, the Morgan County Democrats, Indivisible 10, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Economic Justice Coalition, various local clergy and elected officials.
Event organizers stressed that the event is open to anyone supporting the protection and expansion of voting rights.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, organizers and participants will gather outside of the old middle school, located at 920 Pearl Street in Madison before setting out on the Votercade route through the historic Canaan District in Madison.
“The Votercade route will stay within the Historic Canaan neighborhood, on a roughly 1.5-mile path that begins at the old Middle School and goes past St. Paul AME and Rose of Sharon churches, plus R&B Cafe,” said Dufort. “The Morgan County Votercade is held in conjunction with more than 150 events around the country – all setting off at 3 p.m., including a special Votercade that will recreate the historic Selma-Montgomery route, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. All community members who support voting rights are invited to participate, and should arrive at the old Middle School, 920 Pearl St., shortly after 2 p.m. Supplies will be provided to decorate cars and bikes, including signs and balloons. Spectators are encouraged to join along the route.”
“Voting rights advocates across the country are coming together across America to demand preservation and expansion of democracy, and ignite public support for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act. Events are scheduled on May 8 in more than 140 communities for the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day,” said Dufort.
While these demonstrations will happen nationwide, Georgia voting rights groups feel particular urgency due to the new elections reform bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year – a piece of omnibus legislation viewed as a hindrance to voting rights among voting rights activists.
Critics of Georgia’s new election reforms claim the new laws are “regressive,” place “undue burdens” on voters, and are designed to specifically thwart voter turnout in densely-populated cities and minority communities, which heavily vote for Democrats. Proponents of the bill argued the new regulations would help prevent election fraud and provide uniformity across the state of Georgia in how elections are conducted.
Republican legislators said the bill would “boost voter confidence” after many Republican voters doubted the veracity of the 2020 Presidential Election when President Joe Biden narrowly defeated Former President Donald Trump. However, during the hearings at the Capitol in Atlanta in February, multiple election officials testified that no widespread voter fraud took place in Georgia during the November 2020 Election.
Voting Rights advocates believe Georgia’s new voting requirements are a form of “payback” from Republican state officials after Georgia turned blue for the first time since the early 1990s. Now, voting rights advocates all over the country are calling for a federal piece of legislation, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to expand voting rights and equalize voting requirements across the country.
Proponents of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act argue that the legislation would counteract a Supreme Court Decision back in 2013 that eroded protections in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“In 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court eroded key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protected voters from racial discrimination and intimidation. This decision led to numerous states passing new anti-voter laws that restrict access to the ballot box and cut the number of polling places in our communities,” said Sylvia Albert, a voting rights activist promoting the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“These changes have disproportionately restricted the freedom to vote for voters of color, often leading to long lines and less resources to run accessible elections in Black and brown communities. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act is our chance to reverse this trend by restoring the Voting Rights Act and strengthening the provisions in it to protect the freedom to vote for all Americans, particularly voters of color.”
Morgan County groups are eager to participate in the May 8 demonstration.
“We are pleased that Morgan County has the opportunity to be part of a nationwide event,” said Pastor Lonnie Brown, president of the Morgan County NAACP. “Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act will help restore the protections many generations have fought for.”
For more information about the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day. visit www.dfadcoalition.org/lewis-day/.