A Letter From
The day after the 2016 election, I was filled with contradictory emotions. On the one hand, I was proud of the Fair Elections Legal Network and its work easing the path to the ballot for tens of thousands of Americans. On the other hand, we witnessed the damaging effects years of concerted efforts to create obstacles to voting has had on our democracy.
At FELN, we believe full participation in the democratic process fulfills the promise of America, and the individual promise of each citizen-participant. The act of voting connects every American to one another, crossing boundaries of economic position, geography, race and other divides.
We also believe being a registered voter is an important first step toward engagement in the full civic and economic opportunities of our nation. That’s but one reason our dedicated team at the Campus Vote Project works year-round with school partners to institutionalize a culture of voting and, throughout 2016, reached tens of thousands of students by delivering voting information to first-time voters, many from immigrant and low-income communities. It’s why the FELN legal team helped partners in the African American, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islander communities with information and strategies to maximize voter turnout.
Last year on the legal front, we helped to strike down a law that had erected barriers for naturalized citizens, affirmed another that guaranteed the right for 17-year-olds to vote in presidential primaries, and stopped a regulation to deny the right to vote by absentee ballot.
Now, our work is more important than ever, and we need your help. In 2017, as efforts to pass voter suppression legislation continue – in some instances, aggressively – we will widen our use of strategic legal approaches to protect voters. We must push for new reforms and challenge restrictions on every front – legislatively, through the media, and in the courts – to guarantee voting access expands. We must ensure young people become more aware that our political system is a way to create change, rather than viewing it as corrupt and irrelevant.
There’s no doubt we will be very busy in 2017. Our partners and policy makers nationwide will continue relying on our legal analysis to replace voter suppression with voter expansion. Our essential training and voter information materials are basic and essential tools in the fight for full participation in our democracy. Teaching more young people to be lifetime citizens – and voters – while understanding the role of elected officials at all levels, could not be a more urgent mission.
Yes, our plans are ambitious, but this is no time to sit back. Instead, this is the time to stand up, speak out, and confront the challenge with everything we have. With the continuing and generous investment of our supporters, our vital efforts will surely make a difference.
We are grateful to have you standing with us at this critical time.