Congressional Briefing on Voter Suppression and Election Defense
This Congressional briefing on April 21, 2016 was sponsored by the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC) and the National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC).
Nine members of Congress and two hundred activists and Congressional staff gathered for a historic briefing on the most pressing issues of 2016; voter suppression and manipulation of US elections.
The nine members of Congress who spoke, all from predominantly minority districts, loudly condemned the "new Jim Crow" laws that have been forced on over half the states in the US, and which the lawmakers believe were designed to deliberately suppress voters in their districts, particularly people of color, the poor, the elderly and students.
The briefing inspired the formation of a new Congressional Voting Rights Caucus.
“I want you to know that I like the diversity of the color of the make up of this room. We have white brothers and sisters, we have African Americans, we have Hispanics now concerned about this. . . Are we motived to go out and do even more than we were going to do before?”
— Representative John Conyers
“There is a very insidious, treacherous and deceitful method of voter suppression and I would be remiss if I did not tell you about it. It has to do with the integrity of the voting process itself.
— Representative Hank Johnson.
Quote from Barbara Arnwine.
— Barbara Arnwine, Transformative Justice Coalition
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) brought much needed attention to a crucial aspect of the election crisis: the aging, hackable voting technology used nationwide. Johnson cited the fact that the vote-counting software in these machines is still programmed by a cadre of private companies on proprietary software inaccessible to elections officials and the public.
To begin addressing some of these problems, Johnson will introduce the Verifying Optimal Tools for Elections Act of 2016 (VOTE Act). The bill calls for state-controlled, open-source programming of all voting technology, and provides more than $125 million in Help America Vote Act grants to assist states in replacing voting machines. The bill would also allocate $50 million in grants for training poll workers, adopting new voting technologies and safeguards, and, crucially, removing control of voting machine source code software from private vendors.