Remarks on behalf of the Sierra Club by Shruti Bhatnagar, Chair of the Sierra Club Montgomery County, Maryland, Group
The Sierra Club profoundly supports the Freedom to Vote Act because at the Sierra Club, we believe that protecting the right to vote, ensuring free and fair elections, and reducing the influence of polluters and big money in politics is important to address climate change, attain environmental justice and ensure that Democracy works for all.
The fight for equity, democracy and a livable planet are interconnected. Many of the critical issues that our nation faces such as -- combating the climate crisis, ensuring quality, affordable health care, creating good paying jobs, and achieving racial justice, to name just a few -- cannot be fully addressed until we fix our broken democracy.
We know that environmental justice is closely related to social justice, and they cannot be separated from each other. We all have access to air, water and land but not everyone has access to clean and breathable air, clean and drinkable water and safe outdoor spaces or equal housing opportunities.
Too often the communities including People of color, indigenous communities, and low-income families are disproportionately and most adversely impacted by climate change. They are also the communities that are the most marginalized, targeted by voter suppression and silenced by big and corporate polluter money in politics. Just because every citizen has a right to vote, does not mean that every citizen has the equal opportunity to vote. The Freedom to vote act will help us move forward in that direction.
Congressman John Lewis said “The right to vote is precious. The vote is almost sacred. It’s the most powerful non-violent tool that we have in a Democratic Society, and we must use it”
The influence of money in politics is an important social justice and environmental justice issue. The fossil fuel billionaires who are spending millions to elect politicians with adverse agendas to our environmental crisis and the will of the majority of Americans are actively trying to subvert the freedom to vote, polluting our planet and our Democracy. This cannot continue and must stop.
I quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr who said “Voting is the foundation stone for political action”
In order to protect our environment, we must also protect our democracy and the “Freedom to Vote Act” will do just that. It aims to
• Expand voter registration and opportunities
• Restore voting rights to previously incarcerated people
• Provide funding to states to modernize their voting systems.
• Expand voting access for the disabled, Native Americans, military, and overseas voters • Reduce Dark Money in politics
• Provide a ban on partisan gerrymandering AND
• Prevent Election sabotage from partisan elected officials we are starting to see emerge in states
For generations, our democracy has been functional at best, never truly inclusive and as strong as it can. And as it must be.
The Sierra Club is ready and eager to join with our friends and allies to make those transformational reforms a reality. Together, we can and must urge our friends in the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and not let anything stand in its way.
We are in this together and together, we are powerful. This country belongs to all of us What affects one, affects us all. Together, we can help deepen the movement for a livable planet, safe communities and a democracy that works for everyone.
Thank you and I hope each of you will join as we move forward in this fight. Join me in urging your senators to keep up the momentum for federal protections for the freedom to vote. Ask them to support ending or reforming the filibuster and tell them we need to pass the FTVA and the VRAA as soon as possible!