Washington, D.C., July 1, 2020 – Today, Brady, March for Our Lives and Team ENOUGH release Voting Access Saves Lives, a toolkit and roadmap that initiates an ongoing campaign for individuals and lawmakers to strengthen our democracy by ensuring and increasing access to the voting booth. The ability to participate in our democracy is inseparable from the effort to end gun violence. While we see the importance of grassroots activation to ensure that lawmakers are accountable to their communities, equally as important is ensuring that those lawmakers are reflective of their communities. Yet too often, our nation’s historic and systemic inequities means that they are not and that the voices of those most affected by gun violence are the least represented in the halls of power.
To truly create lasting change and prevent gun violence, all Americans must be heard in our democratic process. Recognizing this truth, Brady, March For Our Lives, and Team ENOUGH will continue to work across all communities and all levels of government to ensure that every American has equal and fair access to the ballot.
Brady President Kris Brown shared:
“While our nation likes to uphold the principle of ‘one person, one vote,’ the truth is that the United States is the only major democracy that burdens its citizens in exercising that right. More accurately, our nation has and does actively suppress the engagement of its citizens in our democratic processes. We know, too, that this suppression targets historically disenfranchised communities. Voting is clearly a civil rights issue, but the gun violence prevention movement knows that this is a gun safety issue as well. Communities that are most impacted by gun violence are often the same communities whose voices are cut out and disenfranchised.
This must end, and we are committed to working with Team Enough and March for Our Lives to ensure that all eligible voters are given the maximum opportunity to participate in our government. That starts with this historic election and working to ensure that all voices in our democracy are equitably heard and their votes are counted. When that happens, the laws change and lives are saved. If there is any doubt of that, look no further than my own state of Virginia, which elected a historic gun violence majority to the General Assembly in November 2019, and thereafter passed seven gun violence prevention bills that had been pushed by advocates for decades. These laws go into effect on July 1st and they will save lives. That is democracy in action. When our citizen’s voices are heard, and their votes counted, our nation’s gun laws reflect the common-sense policies that the majority of its residents want.”
Emma Rowland, March for Our Lives State Policy Associate, and 19-year-old Arizona voter shared:
“Over the past few months, generation Z has galvanized the nation by taking to the streets and demanding justice and accountability for systemic racism in America. This national reckoning makes clearer to young people than ever before: our democratic systems and institutions don’t treat everyone equally, whether that’s the criminal justice system or our electoral process. That’s why we’re so excited about this initiative to empower advocates of all ages to make voting more accessible in their communities. To enact policies that reduce gun violence and police violence, such as increased funding for Violence Intervention and Prevention programs (VIPPs), we need to ensure that the people actually have a say in who represents them. Improving access to voting is a crucial step to make that possible.”
The Team ENOUGH Executive Council shared:
“Young people in this country know that there are few issues affecting our country’s direction and progress like the concerted effort to prevent individuals from exercising their right to vote. Our generation will be forced to bear the consequences of those actions, as restrictions like absentee voting requirements mean that fewer young people are allowed to participate and needed change, such as gun violence prevention, continues to stall in the halls of power. Young people are often blamed for not participating in political processes, yet the truth is that we are often barred or discouraged from voting. Similarly, we know that our country’s policies continue to disenfranchise and discourage communities of color from the voting process. Tactics like gerrymandering and denying voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals disproportionately affect communities of color and work not only to deny individuals from accessing the ballot, but also to disengage these communities from our democratic processes. Despite this, we know that all voices and votes matter. More so, they are necessary if we are to drive real change in our country. This work is vital to passing needed gun safety laws and ensuring that our elected officials are responsive to all of their constituents and their interests. This is what democracy looks like.”
Brady, March for Our Lives, and Team ENOUGH’s report and toolkit emphasizes grassroots actions for all engaged residents to take, as well as policy recommendations for elected officials to take up to maximize the opportunity for all Americans to participate in our democracy if they so choose. These recommendations emphasize six, key areas to achieve this goal:
- Vote by mail & absentee voting
- Voter registration
- Early voting
- Restoration of voting rights
- Remove voter ID laws
- PPE For Poll workers
Each of these recommendations are tailored to ameliorate historical inequities in our voting systems that have both purposefully and unintentionally disenfranchised people of color, particularly Black Americans, Native and Indigenous Americans, other minorities, lower income individuals, and individuals with disabilities, among many others. Ensuring that all of these voices are heard is vital to creating a society that addresses each of these communities’ needs and concerns, including gun violence.
We know that something is amiss when overwhelming, bipartisan majorities of Americans support common-sense gun violence prevention solutions such as universal background checks, but our government is unable to enact these policies. When our government does not represent the totality of its citizens, it is not responsive to their needs.
When it comes to gun violence prevention, it is not hyperbole to say that this is a matter of life and death. Nearly 40,000 Americans die from gun violence a year and we know that communities who are continuously shut out of our democratic processes bear a disproportionate amount of that burden. Ensuring that all citizens who want to exercise their right to vote are able to do so freely and easily is vital to enacting common-sense gun laws. Recognizing this, Brady, March For Our Lives, and Team ENOUGH are committed to ensuring that our movement continues to work with all communities and partners to improve access to voting.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.