Philadelphia, PA – September 15, 2020 – Today Senator Sharif Street joined members of the Philadelphia Black Clergy and state and local leaders to emphasize the importance of free and open elections amid COVID-19 as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is poised to rule on Act 77.
The Philadelphia Black Clergy gathered to condemn efforts by state and federal Republicans that target vote-by-mail and endanger the franchise of free and open elections. Pennsylvania’s Black and Brown elected officials have worked to protect free and open elections through litigation and legislation. Senator Street highlighted ongoing efforts to restrict voting and disenfranchise black and brown communities.
“As leaders we should be making it easier and safer to vote. We are opposed to any proposal that would limit access to voting especially during a pandemic,” said Senator Sharif Street (SD-3). “There has been a consistent and coordinated effort to suppress the ability to vote that will disproportionately affect black and brown communities. I am committed to ensuring free and open elections for all Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania House Republicans have passed legislation reducing the number of days to request a ballot and effectively banning satellite drop boxes. Senate Republicans have advanced similar legislation that severely restricts access to voting. Governor Wolf is expected to veto these measures.
Senator Anthony Williams (SD-8, Senate Democratic WHIP) shared “Instead of working to make sure that mail-in voting is as safe, secure and convenient as possible in midst of a pandemic, Senate and House Republicans are playing partisan games that could disenfranchise thousands of Pennsylvania voters.”
Rev Robert Collier, President of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity had multiple members in attendance and stressed urgency stating, “The time is growing short for when people need to have signed up to register to vote, to request mail in ballots and to vote online. Nothing should be taken for granted. We don’t want would be voters to be complacent, thinking they have a lot of time to get their mail-in ballots, or to get registered to vote. The reality is, with COVID-19 still a concern, a lot of people are saying they would rather vote from home. But they cannot wait until the last minute to do so.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (181st) “Black and brown people in America are well acquainted with disenfranchisement. From slavery to the Jim Crow era, from the civil rights movement to our contemporary struggles against voter suppression. We’ve seen the destruction of the voting rights act and the systemic deconstruction and dismantling of the US Postal service – a national effort against vote-by-mail. We are not deterred. We will use every tool available to enhance and ensure free and open elections in Pennsylvania for black and brown communities.”
Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District) “In November, we’ll participate in what may turn out to be one of the most contested and contentious general elections in our nation’s history. There are people at different levels of our government doing their best to suppress our voting options whether in person, by mail or absentee ballot. In Philadelphia’s underserved communities, your vote is your voice. We all need to be heard. All that are eligible to vote, need to register if necessary, then vote on November 3rd.”
Councilman Derek Greene (At-Large) “As we witness the widespread efforts to cripple our Nation and destroy the very essence of our democracy – the right to vote – we must bring together, every voice and tool, to ensure and protect the security of our electoral process.”
Councilman Isiah Thomas (At-Large) “You wouldn’t go to a sneaker store and ask them to pick out your shoes. Voting is the same. I am calling on every young person to request a mail-in ballot and raise your voice! If you’re comfortable and able, young people should be working polling locations too (for the health and safety of our aging population). A pandemic can’t cancel democracy – we’ve got to adapt and continue to get out the vote.”
Nikil Saval, State Senate-Elect, SD-01. “Efforts to keep people from voting are endemic in this country, and always affect poor and working-class voters, especially working-class voters of color. Voting-by-mail is safe, secure, and smart, and we need to encourage and support this critical option in every way possible—not least when we are in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic that disproportionately affects the same voters who are the targets of voter suppression.”
Photos for media use – please tag Senator Sharif Street. Watch the livestream: https://www.facebook.com/SenSharifStreet