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Rockville Centre locals, officials talk voting rights

Conversation focuses on recent voter restriction bills


As Republican lawmakers around the country pass laws that will
institute new voting restrictions in the wake of a presidential
election whose validity many in their party question, local groups
in Rockville Centre recently hosted a discussion of voting rights
and how to combat voter suppression.

Many recent bills that have passed in states including Florida,
Georgia and Texas aim to limit voting by mail and increase voter
identification and registration requirements, among other measures
that will make it more challenging to cast a ballot.
The new bills came about in reaction to former President Donald
Trump’s and Republican lawmakers’ inaccurate claims that the
election was fraudulent. The charges of widespread fraud were rejected by dozens of courts, and election officials called the election the most secure in American history.

The Rockville Centre Democratic Club partnered with the
Lakeview Democratic Club to sponsor a conversation via Zoom on
May 20. “Voting rights under attack: Current challenges. What can
we do?” featured U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice and Long Island civil
rights attorney Frederick Brewington.

“I never feared, as I do now, that our precious democracy is
threatened,” said Louise Skolnik, co-president of the Democratic
Club. “The big lie. Distortion of truth, fact and reality. Insurrection
as tourism. Validated election outcomes as stolen frauds. What a
bizarre and threatening time we are in, and nowhere is this threat
more evident, at least to me, than in the attack on voting rights
taking place on the state level, and we’ll hear from our
congresswoman about what’s happening at the federal level.”

Rice, who represents New York’s 4th Congressional District and
previously served as Nassau County district attorney, said the new
voting laws are flagrant attempts to suppress Black and brown
voters. “It’s a frightening prospect, she said. “It’s clear that today’s
Republican Party is more interested in fixing elections for itself
than in protecting our bedrock of democracy, which is the right to

That’s why, Rice continued, she urges Democrats to be more
invested in building a bench of good candidates at the local and
state level, since states have the ability to change laws.
“We did not invest the way that Republicans did,” she said, “so
there are far more states under Republican control, enacting these
terrible voter restriction laws, than there are blue states trying to
protect peoples’ right to vote.”

Voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue, Rice said. “I hope we will be
able to come together around a shared commitment to free,
accessible and secure elections for all,” she said, “because that
should not just be a Democratic value or a Republican value; it has
to be an American value if we are to preserve this great democracy
of ours.”

She said supported the passage of H.R.4, the Voting Rights
Advancement Act of 2019, which would require states with a
recent record of discrimination in voting rights to obtain federal
preapproval before changing their election laws. The bill is likely
to pass the House, but could face resistance in the Senate.
Rice also noted that H.R.1, the For the People Act, which has
already passed the House, includes provisions that would expand
automatic voter registration and same-day registration, strengthen
voting by mail and ballot access, combat voter intimidation and
voter suppression and help protect elections from foreign

Brewington spoke about specific voting rights cases, and echoed
Rice in supporting H.R.1 and H.R.4, adding that there is “still work
to be done.”

“[These] are very important bills, and we need to make sure that
we push every person that we can that’s down in D.C. to support
both of those bills,” Brewington said. “The issues, with regard to
[H.R.4], is so crucial because that’s the restoration of those things
that got gutted out of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s
important, because what we got gutted out of [it] left us with very
few options in terms of trying to turn around some of the systemic
and historical components that have led to inequities in voting.”