Baltimore Sun: In forceful committee speech, Elijah Cummings pledges to 'fight until the death' for voting rights
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings delivered a fiery speech Wednesday in which he shared a promise his 92-year-old mother asked from him on her death bed a year ago.
Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, delivered the heated speech during the committee’s hearing on H.R.1 — a bill on voting rights, campaign finance and ethics rules. The legislation, called the “For the People Act,” was introduced by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat and a senior member of the committee.
“He has compiled one of the boldest reform packages to be considered in the history of this body,” Cummings said of Sarbanes at the beginning of the hearing. “This sweeping legislation will clean up corruption in government, fight secret money in politics and make it easier for American citizens across this great country to vote.”
The bill’s goals include promoting early voting, absentee voting, voting by mail and other ways to help citizens cast their ballots, Cummings said.
After about an hour and half of testimony on the bill, Cummings brought up a North Carolina court case concerning voting districts, which federal judges found to be discriminatory toward black residents.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the two North Carolina congressional districts gave Republicans an unfair advantage and would need to be redrawn, according to the Associated Press. The case is closely tied to a similar suit brought against the state of Maryland, in which justices ruled the congressional map for Montgomery County was drawn too heavily in favor of Democrats.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments March 26 on how to appropriately redraw both states’ districts.
Cummings called the North Carolina voting districts “chilling” and recalled how his mother, a sharecropper, had witnessed Americans harmed and beaten while seeking the right to vote, he said.
“Her last words were ‘Do not let them take our votes away from us,’ ” he said, punctuating each word.
“Voting is crucial, and I don’t give a damn how you look at it,” Cummings said. “There are efforts to stop people from voting. That’s not right. This is not Russia. This is the United States of America.”
Cummings called voting the “essence” of democracy and pledged to “fight until the death” to make sure every citizen had access to the vote. Those without it, he said, cannot progress with the rest of society nor control their destiny.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, delivered on Jan. 30 an opposition to H.R.1, calling it the “Democratic Politician Protection Act” and a “power grab.”