Let down by our government’s failure to protect Voting Rights?
Yep, yep to the yep, yep. It’s your girl POC, and I’m back in these streets, checking in with Philadelphians about voting rights. It’s been 65 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous speech, Give Us the Ballot. And it’s been 57 years since the passing of the landmark Voting Rights Act in 1965 – but a little less than a decade since the US Supreme court gutted it in 2013.
Soon after, 26 states enacted new voting restrictions – and then following the 2020 election, 17 states enacted even more barriers for voters: stricter ID’s, fewer polling places, voter roll purges, and more. Many of these changes would’ve required federal approval, had the original Voting Rights Act been left in-tact.
Today, voting rights for all Americans are in limbo after Democrats failed to pass either the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — which used to have bipartisan support. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania gears up for the governor’s race this fall, where a Republican win would almost certainly lead to significant rollbacks in mail-in voting and other restrictions, according to a recent Inquirer article.
So I went out into Philly neighborhoods, asking people how they feel about the current state of our voting rights. Does the need to demand federal voting protections make you Mad or Nah?
Neighbors sound off! NOTE: Some speakers provide their names & neighborhoods, some don’t. Check out their voices in the original recorded interviews, transcribed here:
- Yes, I am very upset — very upset! Because we’re still at a standstill. Something really needs to be done about this voter’s rights stuff. So how can you deny people that’s in prison, they can’t vote? That’s making the vote short. So we’re never going to make it. The Senate gotta do much better. They do. We all vote these politicians in, and when they get in, they give you a whole new twist. They don’t do nothing they’re supposed to do for you. They don’t help you. They don’t do nothing. So it’s a bad situation – North Philly
- Yeah, I think that Congress should have passed the voting bills that they voted on last week. Because they are making it too hard for people to vote. And they’re messing around with how they’re going to count the vote, too, which is even more worrying to me. – Fairmount
- Well, I think everybody has the right to vote and to express their opinion about it. As far as voter registration, that’s pretty straightforward. – Montgomery County
- I think that we have come a long way as people, but we still got so far to go. Still talking about something that should have been handled way back in the 50s and 60s. It’s like, we took a major step forward with a Black president, and then we take ten steps backwards talking about voting rights. Like, America needs to do the right thing by us as people of color. It’s like we’re not even a part of the American – we’re never first on the agenda. They talking about all these voter rights — but do our vote actually count, at the end of the day? — North Philly
- Everybody should have the right to vote if there of age, that’s the way I feel. – South Philly
- Somewhat mad, but not really. I just think that it should just be the way it was. We should go to vote the way you wanted. I mean, all this mail-in stuff. And this and that. I think it’s too much. I think sometimes people try to change it because they make people think it’s the wrong way to vote. The right way to vote is to go to a machine. You put your vote in and you keep going. — North Philly
- I am extremely mad. I’m also very depressed. I don’t know what the solution is. But we need to fix this. Because it’s just not fair. People are being deprived the right to vote. And I just think we’re losing our democracy. If we don’t do something about it. — I can’t say I represent Old City because nobody elected me. But that’s where I live.
- It stinks that all parties can’t come up with something where everyone has an equal opportunity to vote. It stinks. You know, I mean, so you look at it like they can’t even get this right. And it’s like the basic right of all Americans. So yeah, it makes me mad. It’s ridiculous to be honest with you. – Art Museum area
- It’s aggravating and crazy. The fact that it is very hard for some people to get to the voting booth, let alone doing it. Everybody should be able to do it in the mail if they need to. Or if they want to.
How ‘Bout You?
Mad or Nah is an original woman-on-the-street interview series from REVIVE Radio that asks Philadelphians about issues impacting their everyday life. This edition originally aired January 26, 2022 on WHYY.com and on 90.9FM.
Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness aka P.O.C. hosts and produces a variety of award-winning shows featured on Uptown Radio 98.5FM and Philly’s WHYY/NPR/PBS outlets. Read more in our feature on this multi-talented motivator, Wouldn’t It Be NICE? (June 2021).