Voting Rights

Welcome to the All Souls Church Voting Rights page.

Phone Banks

Gather in homes of All Souls members to make phone calls to voters and volunteers as part of All Souls' voting rights work with our partners in North Carolina. Limited seating; RSVP directly to hosts or with Eventbrite link. Other events forthcoming. For more information or to volunteer to host a phone back, contact Phil Martin (philmart@gmail.com; 908.601.3825). See specific details in the column to the right.

Voter Registration trip to Charlotte NC

Fri., Sep. 26-Sun., Sep. 28. Reeb Project Voter Registration Trip to Charlotte NC. We'll register new voters in person with our UU partners in Charlotte. We'll have to take Friday off from work. We'll register voters on Saturday and some of Sunday, worship with our sister congregations, and return to DC Sunday evening. Please register at Eventbrite to indicate your interest and we'll follow up with more information. Contact ASCVotingRights@gmail.com.

Watch the video of our Supreme Court flashmob!

Here are some specific actions you can take today to take a stand for voting rights:

  • Share our video of our live music flashmob on social media to raise awareness of the anniversary of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, using #ReebProject.
  • Join us on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act. Show your support for voting rights by attending the rally on Wed., June 25, at 12:30 pm on the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington, DC.
  • Contact your representatives in Congress (Senators and Representatives) to show support for strengthening the Voting Rights Act.
  • Learn more about the Voting Rights Act by attending a congressional hearing on Wed., June 25, at 10:00 am in Dirksen 106, Washington, DC. You should arrive at least an hour in advance to get in line for a seat.
  • If you live in or have friends or family in a state with restrictive voting rights laws, those state legislatures need to hear from their constituents. Ask them to repeal or defeat voter suppression measures.
  • Join us in future actions.

Since the Supreme Court's ruling in June 2013 eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina and other states have passed legislation that restricts voting access for students, immigrants, the working poor, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated. Make no mistake about it-this is Jim Crow in a new guise. Voter suppression represents a deliberate attempt on the part of a white establishment that can no longer win elections in which all Americans vote to retain power by making sure only some Americans vote.

For All Souls, this issue is personal. In 1965, our former associate minister, the Rev. James Reeb, was beaten to death in Selma, Alabama, as he marched for voting rights. His death, in part, prompted President Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act to Congress 49 years ago.

Last August, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Rev. Hardies asked All Souls members and Unitarian Universalists nationwide to take up the cause of voting rights. Since then, our movement has taken off:

  • Over 200 church members traveled to Raleigh, NC, for the February 8, 2014, Moral March, organized by the North Carolina NAACP. Nearly 300 congregants gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court on June 15 to stand and sing for voting rights (share #ReebProject).
  • All Souls is hosting a series of training events regarding voter suppression, disenfranchisement of communities of color, and community organizing strategies. The first training event was a teach-in and launch of the Reeb Project for Voting Rights featuring the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Future training events will take place starting in late July.
  • All Souls is working in solidarity with the North Carolina NAACP and other North Carolina voting rights organizations, the Unitarian Universalist Association and North Carolina Unitarian Universalist congregations to increase voter turnout in a specific North Carolina community during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. Phone banking will kick off in August – check back for specific dates.

In one of his final sermons at All Souls before his death, the Rev. James Reeb said: We [must] take upon ourselves a continuing and disciplined effort with no real hope that in our lifetime we are going to be able to take a vacation from the struggle for justice. The dream that Dr. King, Rev. Reeb, and so many others dreamed in their lifetimes can be realized in our own if we, like they, act together for justice. Please join us in this struggle! For more information or to volunteer to help, contact ASCVotingRights@gmail.com.

The dream that Dr. King, Rev. Reeb, and so many others dreamed in their lifetimes can be realized in our own if we, like they, act together for justice.

Please join us in this struggle! For more information or to volunteer to help, contact ASCVotingRights@gmail.com.

Reeb Project for Voting Rights

Revs. Rob Hardies and Cathy Rion Starr march in Raleigh, NC, as part of a Moral Monday demonstration. Photo by Phil Martin.The Reeb Project was named in honor of former All Souls associate minister James Reeb, who was beaten to death in 1965 in Selma, AL, where he had gone to march for voting rights. The Project has four goals for its work through 2016.

  1. To impact the national discussion on voting rights by leveraging our unique history, DC location and influence within Unitarian Universalism.
  2. To increase voter turnout in a specific North Carolina community during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles by working in solidarity with local UU and people of color partner organizations.
  3. To continually raise consciousness of the injustice of our own disenfranchisement as DC residents and to seek remedies to this injustice.
  4. To Build the Beloved Community within and beyond our walls by developing a multiracial, multicultural voting rights team at All Souls and by working in solidarity and partnership with communities of color. 

Photo: Revs. Rob Hardies and Cathy Rion Starr march in Raleigh, NC, on May 19, 2014, during a Moral Monday demonstration. Photographer: Phil Martin.

Shelby County v. Holder (decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2013)

When they enacted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965, the U.S. Congress understood that enforcing it would be a challenge. The sheer volume of laws to review made the practice of suing violators unrealistic.

To resolve this problem, the VRA included two key provisions to streamline enforcement. Section 4 identified jurisdictions with widespread and persistent patterns of voter discrimination through a formula: (1) did the jurisdiction have a “test” to determine voter eligibility (such as a literacy or moral character test) and (2) were less than 50% of its voting age population registered to vote. States and localities that met these criteria were then subject to Section 5, which required that the Justice Department review any new voting laws in those jurisdictions to ensure they complied with the VRA. If not, the Justice Department could prevent their enactment without having to sue in federal court. For over 40 years, the Justice Department used this “preclearance” process to prevent thousands of potentially discriminatory voting laws from being enforced by states and counties across the country.

In April 2010, Alabama’s Shelby County filed suit in federal court in DC, arguing that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority when, with bi-partisan support, it reauthorized Section 5 in 2006. On June 25, 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court declared Section 4 unconstitutional. The court majority—Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy—claimed that Section 4’s formula for determining which jurisdictions were subject to Section 5 preclearance “punished jurisdictions for their past” because, in their estimation, conditions in those places had changed since 1965.

By invalidating the VRA’s preclearance process, the Supreme Court has significantly weakened the Justice Department’s ability to curb discriminatory voting laws. Now the only recourse the Justice Department has is to sue in federal court—a lengthy, expensive, less effective process. And despite the Court’s belief that things have improved in the 40 years since the enactment of the VRA, many cities, counties, and states continue to pass laws intended to deny racial and ethnic minorities their right to vote (a fact reaffirmed by the Federal Court of Appeals in the Shelby County case). Indeed, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the VRA, states have acted with alarming haste: from Texas, which moved to enact its restrictive voter ID law and discriminatory redistricting efforts—measures previously stalled by a federal court—on the very day of the decision, to North Carolina, where state legislators passed omnibus legislation and created the most restrictive and discriminatory voting environment in the country.

Short film about Rev. James Reeb

ABC News item about Rev. Olsen at All Souls

 

Short film about the march

Long film about the march

Rev. Hardies' Call to Action

Dear All Souls Family,

I am writing to invite you to join me for an important civil rights march in Raleigh, NC, on Saturday, February 8.

Since the Supreme Court's ruling last June eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, states such as North Carolina have passed legislation that restricts voting access for students, immigrants, the working poor, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated.

Make no mistake about it-this is Jim Crow in a new guise. Voter suppression represents a deliberate attempt on the part of a white establishment that can no longer win elections in which all Americans vote to retain power by making sure only some Americans vote.

The Rev. James ReebFor All Souls, this issue is personal.

In 1965, our former associate minister, the Rev. James Reeb, was beaten to death in Selma, Alabama, as he marched for voting rights. His death prompted President Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act to Congress 49 years ago.

Last August, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I asked All Souls members and Unitarian Universalists nationwide to take up the cause of voting rights. Now, to kick off this campaign, I invite you to join me for the Moral March on Raleigh on Saturday, February 8. Organized by the North Carolina NAACP, the rally is anticipated to be the largest civil rights march in the South since Selma!

For more information or to volunteer to help, contact ASCVotingRights@gmail.com. To register to be part of the All Souls/UU contingent, go to http://bit.ly/ASCFeb8.

And please join Rev. Susan, me, and a combined Festival Choir for rousing worship this Sunday. As we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, I will share why I believe voter suppression represents a threat to our deepest values and to our very democracy.

In one of his final sermons at All Souls before his death, the Rev. James Reeb said:

We [must] take upon ourselves a continuing and disciplined effort with no real hope that in our lifetime we are going to be able to take a vacation from the struggle for justice. 

The dream that Dr. King, Rev. Reeb, and so many others dreamed in their lifetimes can be realized in our own if we, like they, act together for justice.

Please join me in this struggle!

Love, Rob

 


Rev. Rob Hardies sent the following email as part of the UUA's Standing on the Side of Love campaign.

Friends,

Did you see the email from Rev. Morales on Monday encouraging you to come to Raleigh? If not, click here.

I want to echo Peter’s call and tell you why dozens of us from All Souls Church in Washington, DC are joining him in Raleigh.

Simply put: For us this march is personal.

In 1965 the Rev. James Reeb, a former minister of our church, was killed on the streets of Selma marching for voting rights. His death moved President Johnson to introduce the Voting Rights Act into Congress 49 years ago.

But last June the Supreme Court eviscerated that law, and since then states like North Carolina have passed legislation intended to suppress the vote of students, the working poor, people of color and the formerly incarcerated.

In the name of James Reeb and all those who struggled and died for the right to vote, we have a personal and moral obligation to protect their hard-won freedoms.

If you can join us in Raleigh on February 8, click here to register and learn more.

Can’t come to Raleigh, but still want to make a difference? Here are ways you can be involved from where you live:

  • Light candles/say a solidarity prayer or message at February 9th worship service
  • Watch a 10 min. video of Rev. William Barber, President of the NAACP NC, on the Forward Together Moral Movement
  • See Bill Moyer’s January 3rd program on the Moral Mondays movement (45 minutes)
  • Donate and/or take up a collection at your congregation for the NAACP NC to continue their important work. Your gift to the UUA will go to support the NC NAACP
  • Sign and circulate the NAACP’s petition to restore the Voting Rights Act
  • Find out if a people’s assembly has been organized or is organizing in your state. If so, join it. If not, offer to help your local NAACP chapter in organizing one.

The Thirty Days of Love starts tomorrow, and as part of the campaign, messengers from across the country will share why, even as we are celebrating the 50th anniversaries of so many important civil rights victories, there is still more work to be done. To learn more about the first week of Thirty Days of Love, with resources on “Living the Dream," click here

In one of his final sermons at All Souls before his death, the Rev. James Reeb said: 

We [must] take upon ourselves a continuing and disciplined effort with no real hope that in our lifetime we are going to be able to take a vacation from the struggle for justice.

The struggle that Rev. Reeb and so many others began in their lifetimes can be realized in our own if we, like they, act together for justice.

Please join us in this struggle.

Peace, Rob