Voting Rights Webinar Highlighted New Illinois Voting Laws, National Issues
Ami Gandhi, Senior Counsel for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights, presented a webinar last Wednesday co-sponsored by Bend the Arc Jewish Action CU on past and present federal voting laws, and the new changes to Illinois voting laws that took effect this spring.
Other webinar sponsors included the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the Epsilon Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.
At the webinar, Gandhi cautioned against reliance on the courts to protect voting rights,especially once a state law is in place. She stressed the importance of local action and noted that the most effective work for voting rights happens when diverse groups such as Bend the Arc, League of Women Voters, and Alpha Kappa Alpha come together with a unified message.
She also noted that Illinois' recently passed voting rights bill, SB825, takes Illinois in the right direction by creating a permanent, opt-in vote-by-mail registry, expanding mail-in voting, making Election Day a state holiday, mandating at least one central polling place in each county for universal voting on Election Day, and allows counties smaller than Cook County to establish a temporary polling place at a county jail. This stands in stark contrast, she said, to the raft of voter suppression bills being passed in several states.
“Even if it feels like a lost cause, keep doing the work,” she told attendees. “Rally with the message, ‘This is the change we need to see, this is how we move the needle forward.’ And remind your senators and representatives, ‘You work for us.’”
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee was founded in 1969 as a group of civil rights lawyers and advocates working to secure racial equity and economic opportunity for all. Their goal is to root out and dismantle deeply entrenched systems of discrimination, racism, and economic oppression by using the power of the law to give voice to those most impacted by these civil rights issues. They run a Voter Protection Hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, year-round for anyone with questions, concerns, complaints about voting.