West Virginia voting rights activists press for action on Capitol Hill

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — There’s talk on Capitol Hill about a government shutdown this weekend over vaccine mandates. Voting integrity is also in the rush of business as the calendar year draws to a close.

The clock is ticking in the halls of Congress and veterans are running out of patience. After all the second-guessing about election integrity in 2020, citizen activists have taken a solution to congress: making voting secure and accessible. Disenfranchising voters goes against Democratic principles in the Constitution, granting all citizens the right to vote.

“Senator Joe Manchin’s Freedom to Vote Act is a once in a generation opportunity to fix our broken democracy,” said voting rights activist Erin Lehman. “It would finally ban partisan gerrymandering, get the dark money out of politics and protect our sacred right to vote.”

Lehman, a leader with the grassroots reform group, RepresentUs, is mobilizing support for fair access to the ballot box and an impartial system for drawing congressional and legislative boundaries. Her group would also limit the influence of corporate money in campaigns.

“There are laws being enacted across the country that are affecting mail-in ballot and affecting early voting. We need to protect our veterans,” said Tammy Offutt with veterans rights group Common Defense.

The Lehman-Offutt alliance is a voice for veterans who want the convenience of mail-in balloting and early voting. Offutt notes that many disabled veterans, for example, have physical challenges making it to a polling place, standing in long lines on sometimes freezing November Tuesdays, to make their voice for democracy heard. Lehman says the mountain state can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.

“Due to West Virginian’s declining population, we’re actually losing representation in Congress after the new districts are drawn. That means the corruption and gerrymandering in other states will affect us more than ever,” Lehman said.

With midterm elections coming up next year, veterans want their right to vote protected. West Virginian Lehman has been active across the state line in Maryland, where that state’s General Assembly meets in special session next week to draw their new congressional and legislative boundaries, a showdown likely to be settled on a gubernatorial veto.

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