Brady, March For Our Lives, and Team ENOUGH believe we can't prevent gun violence until we ensure everyone can fairly participate in our democracy.
Following the murders of Black Americans like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, more and more Americans are beginning to understand that our everyday policies and institutions are entrenched in systemic racism. And that includes our nation’s voting laws. Racist and discriminatory voter suppression is rampant. And let's be clear, it is no accident that the communities most affected by gun violence — namely Black and Latinx communities — face the greatest barriers to the ballot box.
We’re mobilizing gun violence prevention activists to advocate for voting access.
We believe that if we want to strengthen our nation’s gun laws and save lives, then we must unite to support civil rights advocates in dismantling systemic barriers to voting. We must work together to eradicate racist and discriminatory voter suppression efforts. Especially as we face unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, we must each dedicate ourselves to ensuring that every American has access to the ballot box.
Now is the time for each of us to sharpen our skills as frontline advocates in our states to ensure all citizens — especially historically suppressed Black American voters — have the opportunity to vote. During this pandemic, we must fight harder than ever to ensure access to the polls.
What We’re Advocating For
We’re providing activists and advocates with concrete, realistic, and effective reforms that we can achieve between now and November 2020. We’ll teach you what to ask for and who to ask. As gun violence prevention organizations, we aren’t advocating for these policies “in addition to” our respective missions — rather, our organizations have come together because we recognize that creating an equitable and safe democracy is inextricably tied to our fight for gun violence prevention. Together, we can ensure more voices are heard at the polls — especially the voices of those most impacted by gun violence.
We’re mobilizing gun violence prevention activists to lobby for expanding voting access across four broad categories:
While many of our solutions — like providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to poll workers or expanding early voting periods — can be enacted by election officials in your state, some may need to be mandated by your governor, mayor, attorney general, secretary of state, local or state court, local or state legislature, or some combination of the above. We provide various maps and a state action toolkit that identify your state voting laws, advocate for improvements, and educate your elected officials on proper implementation of both current and new laws.
Ready to get to lobbying? These are our 15 priority states!
Learn more about voting plans and policies in YOUR state — including who you can contact to lobby to ensure voting access. We have information on the 15 priority states below. Use hashtag #VotingSavesLives on social media to share how you're mobilizing.
We recognize that many of the policy changes or implementation modifications that we advocate for require varying degrees of funding at state and local levels. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, these financial barriers are notable, and grant programs can provide opportunities. Ultimately, however, elected officials must prioritize voting rights as an absolutely fundamental pillar in our democracy. We also need Congress to act. Gun violence prevention advocates must demand that Congress provide states with the $4 billion in funding that is necessary to ensure the 2020 elections are safe, equitable, and accessible to all. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which addresses this shortfall, providing an additional $3.6 billion to the $400 million already allocated by Congress. Brady, March For Our Lives, and Team ENOUGH have echoed this important funding request on the federal stage as a part of the congressional coronavirus relief efforts.
Recognizing that Voting is Not a Panacea
The notion that we can simply vote our way out of oppression and into radical change is implausible and out of touch. Too many citizens have been denied access to fair and safe elections due to economic barriers, burdensome new laws, a prior conviction, voter purges, inaccessible polling locations, or a host of other reasons. Many Americans are disillusioned after years of facing systemic discrimination, and even more are feeling hopeless after participating in the democratic process but feeling like nothing has changed.
These stories are common, and dismissing them fails to recognize the heart of the problem. This is why each and every election is so critical, and why this year there is so much work to be done. This we can all agree on: No one should have to risk their health or safety to vote. And everyone should have the right to cast free and unfettered ballots. We hope this campaign provides advocates across the country with the resources you need to get to work at all levels of governance and ensure a more equitable America.
Building Upon the Work of Civil Rights Advocates
We proudly join the chorus of civil rights advocates who have long demanded our country live its spoken values of granting every citizen the right to participate in the democratic process.
We offer our sincerest thanks to the many organizations and individuals whose advice and insight have been invaluable to the campaign’s construction, particularly the Center for American Progress, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Guns Down America, and the Hub Project. The resources of these groups, along with the Brennan Center, the ACLU, the NAACP, and many more, helped to inform and shape our campaign. We are grateful for and indebted to these organizations and the dedicated individuals who work every day to protect the voting rights of all Americans.
A Deeper Dive into Gun Violence Prevention and Democracy Reform
We know that Black and Latinx communities that are the most affected by gun violence also face the greatest barriers to voting. Too often, the communities that shoulder the burden of our nation’s flaws have also been historically marginalized and cut out of the democratic process. These communities have been deprived of the avenues of direct democracy most necessary for citizens to have agency in their own future — their right to vote.
Gun violence is a national emergency, and it is vital that the citizens most impacted by this epidemic are able to vote for elected officials who will take concrete steps to protect them. We cannot fully address gun violence without improving access to our electoral system for Black Americans, Latinx citizens, people with disabilities, and the youth demographic, who have all been systematically pushed to the margins of our democratic process.
To bring about effective policy change in gun violence, police violence, and voting rights, we must have representatives at the local, state, and federal level that reflect and fight for the will of the people.
This year, Americans will be casting ballots in a highly anticipated and divisive election where legislators, campaigns, and grassroots organizations are hoping to harness the collective power of their constituencies. At the same time, America is experiencing unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and growing public attention to police violence against Black and Latinx communities. To ensure the health and safety of all citizens, we must have representatives that are elected by and responsive to the American people — all of us. Without this kind of direct and faithful representation, the issues most important to all Americans, such as gun violence, will never progress toward their solutions.
Key Facts on the Confluence of Gun Violence and Voter Suppression
If you are Black in America, you are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a gun homicide than a white person.
Young Black men are more likely than any other demographic to be killed by gun homicide. Black Americans make up a higher percentage of gun violence victims in this country, and 1 out of every 13 Black Americans cannot vote due to a past conviction. That is four times the rate of other Americans.
The shootings of Latinx and Black individuals often go unsolved at a dramatically higher rate than those of their white counterparts.
These communities also suffer the most from stringent voter ID laws and other barriers to voting, like removing or rolling back early voting centers. In Chicago, a city that has long struggled to solve homicides, the rate of unsolved murders is not equal amongst the population of the city. When the murder victim is white, 47% of cases are solved, compared to just 33% for Hispanic victims and less than 22% for African Americans.
Lengthy polling lines and wait times are most likely to happen in areas with large Black and Latinx populations.
Data shows that voters in majority-Black are likelier to wait longer than those in majority-white neighborhoods. One recent study found that residents of entirely Black neighborhoods waited 29% longer to vote and were 74% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place.
The same study found that a disparity also exists for entirely Hispanic neighborhoods. This disparity was particularly evident in Arizona’s 2016 primary election, during which closures of polling places disproportionately impacted the city’s Latinx population. Data showed long lines across all Maricopa County — which includes Phoenix, the state’s largest metropolitan area — but in census tracts with a large Latinx population, the average wait time at the closest voting centers was more than four hours. Average wait times across the county, comparably, were about half of that.
Latinx communities also face an outsized risk of dying from a firearms homicide compared to their white counterparts. Nationwide CDC data shows a Hispanic individual is about twice as likely to be the victim of a gun homicide than a white person. This data is borne out even further in states like California, where over a span of 17 years more than 16,600 Latinx individuals were killed due to gun violence. Forty-five percent of those victims were between the ages of 10 to 24. This fear is particularly acute in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, where a majority of the victims were of Puerto Rican descent.
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