Former First Lady Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities and power brokers have penned an open letter urging Americans to take action by pushing lawmakers and advocating for their voting rights.  

Mrs. Obama, creator and co-chair of the nonpartisan nonprofit When We All Vote, chairman of the board, Valerie Jarrett, and more than 60 co-chairs, ambassadors and supporters co-signed the letter. It calls on people across the country to contact members of the U.S. Senate to show support of the For the People Act. This landmark bill—companion legislation to H.R.1, which, as ESSENCE reported, passed the House of Representatives on March 3– is being compared in importance to key laws passed during the Civil Rights Movement.

Mrs. Obama’s When We All Vote co-chairs, who include powerful Black women such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington, Janelle Monáe and Shonda Rhimes, published the open letter today urging voters to call, email and tweet their Senators in support of the legislation. 

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It says in part: “After more Americans than ever voted in the last presidential election, some state leaders believe that silencing them is the only way to maintain their grip on power. They’re hoping to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. And if we as Americans stand idly by—if we wait for others to act or we refuse to do so with anything other than clear purpose and full-hearted patriotism—they will succeed.”

Their efforts come as at least 43 states across the country are considering more than 250 proposals that would limit voting rights and access to millions of Americans—with a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown Americans. According to a recent report from the Brennan Center, hundreds of bills to restrict voting have been introduced around the country.

The landmark legislation aims to restore the promise of American democracy by guaranteeing every citizen full access to the ballot. Supported by Senators such as Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), it addresses voter intimidation and suppression, which are among the biggest examples of systemic racism in America. It seeks to end the corrupting power of dark money in the nation’s campaigns; and puts an end to gerrymandering. In addition, it strengthens ethics laws to ensure that public servants work for the public interest.

The When We All Vote letter notes: “Our nation was founded on the idea that as citizens, we should be able to determine our nation’s destiny. Generations of Americans have rightly organized, marched, and died to defend that ideal and expand voting and civil rights to women and minorities—a story that continues to this day. Today, the moment calls for us to take up that patriotic call to protect and expand those rights once again. …This bill is not about choosing one party or one issue over another. It is about commonsense reforms and best practices that make our democracy more open, more fair, and more inclusive. It is about reaffirming our founding principle that we can chart our own course as a nation.”

Additional co-signers of the letter include: Alicia Keys, Amandla Stenberg, Ayesha Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Common, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Issa Rae, Jada Pinkett Smith, Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Lopez, Karamo Brown, Keke Palmer, Laverne Cox, LL COOL J, Loni Love, Lynn Whitfield, Martin Lawrence, Michelle Williams, Regina Hall, Regina King, Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Curry, Taraji P. Henson, The Roots, Whoopi Goldberg, Yara Shahidi, Fat Joe and Yvette Nicole Brown.

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