By Bria Suggs
The March On For Voting Rights organization hosted a march in downtown Atlanta this past Saturday. The march was to not only raise awareness for new and old voters in Georgia, but to also honor the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
There were also sister marches in Washington D.C., Houston, Phoenix, and nearly 50 other cities nationwide.
Before the march in an interview with The Atlanta Voice, Georgia native and activist Maci Hill expressed her excitement about getting people ready to vote.
Hill got her start volunteering in her community and working on election campaigns after graduating from Spelman College. She now works as the Georgia State Director for March On For Voting Rights.
“Now we’re back again to get people out and motivated and excited to get educated on the new legislation that has been passed, to get them excited for the legislation that we want to get passed, and then getting them prepared for the upcoming elections this year,” Hill said.
Hill hopes that the event helps citizens of voting age want to start thinking about the upcoming elections.
“There’s over 3,000 elections happening across the state of Georgia,” Hill said. “With the new SB202 bill here within the state of Georgia, we really wanted to bring people together to get them excited, to get them motivated and prepared [for] this upcoming election.”
The Senate Bill 202 has the power to change the process of absentee voting. There is now less time to request a ballot and to turn it in, among other restrictions. The bill also gives access to the state board to take over the procedure of disqualifying ballots across the state, a power usually reserved for county boards.
“A lot of people look at the SB202 bill as the water bottle bill, but it’s so much more than that and it’s going to affect the way we see voting here in Georgia moving forward,” Hill said. “So we wanted to make sure people are prepared for that, that they know what is included within that bill and how there are going to be changes.”
While Hill wants to bring attention to bills such as SB202, she does not want such legislation to discourage voters.
“Voting doesn’t have to be something that is draining, or sitting in these lines for hours,” Hill said. “Your civic engagement is very important to be a part of everything that you do and making sure that your voice is heard every single election.”
Atlanta’s March On For Voting Rights event took place at The King Center. Speakers such as Courtney and Corrie Cockrell, the great-nieces of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and community leaders engaged with the crowd during the rally.
Participants then marched three blocks down to former Congressman and Civil Rights Movement leader John Lewis’ mural on Auburn Avenue and back for a concert.
Attendees Barbara and Larry Jennngs chose to come out to the march because it supported a cause they believed in.
“We know that voting rights are very important and that they’re being diminished and if we don’t fight for them, they’re just going to disappear,” Larry said. “We’ll go back to where we were in the 1940s and early 50s.”
Barbara believes that no matter what kind of restrictive voting laws may be passed, it is still up to every individual to jump over the hurdle and vote.
Larry described bills such as SB202 have been passed to help people remain in political power in reaction to a diversifying America. Although he does not mind voting laws, he still wants them to be fair in his opinion.
“I’ve never had an issue with Voter ID laws,” Larry said. “The only issue that I could possibly have is they have to make it easier for people to get the ID… Don’t make the people have to jump through hurdles to get the ID because everybody doesn’t have that ID. But it makes sense to me that you have to show ID, I show ID to get on a plane, I show ID at the bank, I show ID at so many different places.”
Congresswoman Nikema Williams chose to attend Atlanta’s march instead of Washington D.C. ‘s march unlike some of her colleagues to reflect on the history of civil rights in Atlanta.
“I decided that I needed to be home for this,” Williams said. “Atlanta is the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. This district is a very historic district and so kicking this off right here at the King Center this morning was really important to me and I love serving the people of the fifth congressional district and so I didn’t want to be any other place.”
She participated in the event to bring attention to the need for every person to vote and for every vote to be counted.
“This is about standardizing democracy and making sure that everyone has equal access to the ballot,” Williams said.
“We have to remind people democracy doesn’t start and stop on election day,” Williams said. “You show up to vote, but then you continue to show up to hold your elected official accountable because this is a participative government. We’re all in this together.”