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Public Statements

100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I rise to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, providing suffrage for all sexes in the Constitution of the United States.

The amendment states that the right to vote ``shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.'' The suffrage Movement opened the doors to women's participation in the electoral process and contributed to equitable civic leadership and engagement.

Today, I honor the historic milestone of the women's suffrage movement, and the contributions from my home state of Vermont, while acknowledging the barriers to voting that have harmed and continue to harm some of the most marginalized people in our country.

Vermont's contributions to the suffrage movement ranged from participation on the local level to the national marches. Vermonters fought for women's legal civic participation in our schools, municipal offices, and our State legislature, along with the national right to vote. I am grateful to every Vermonter who fought a more equitable political system.

Notable Vermont suffragists include Clarina Howard Nichols of Townshend, who fought for women's property rights. Annette Parmalee of Washington, one of the most outspoken suffragists in my State, who fought for suffrage locally, statewide and nationally. And Lucy Daniel of Grafton, who used civil disobedience to lend her weight to the fight. I am proud of every Vermonter's contribution to the movement and helping our country expand access to the ballot box.

Suffragists were women of races, ages, and political backgrounds. Yet after the 19th Amendment, millions of women--particularly African- Americans in the Jim Crow South--remained shut out of the polls for decades. Many States and municipalities continued to ignore the 15th and 19th Amendments, effectively withholding voting rights from women, Black people, and anyone who was low-income or ``uneducated''. The harm was most profound at the intersection of marginalized groups.

I find the efforts to stop people from voting to be deeply unpatriotic--then and now. In our long history, the United States has made it harder for some individuals to be civically engaged because of their gender identity, their income, or race. We know that the literacy tests kept those shut out of the education system from the electoral process. We know that poll taxes kept poor people from casting a ballot. And we know that barriers to voting still exist today.

We have seen people from majority Black districts wait in line for double the amount of time as their neighboring white districts. We have seen eligible voters turned away because of inaccurate voting roll purges. From gerrymandering, to archaic voter ID laws, to limiting voter registration, discriminatory efforts still exist that harm our democracy and deprive Americans of a government that represents them. In my view, voting should be a simple process. We should be passing laws to make it easier to vote, not harder.

First and foremost, we must reinstate the Voting Rights Act. We need to make election day a national holiday so that more people are able to get to the polls without losing time or wages from work. We need to expand automatic voter registration, early voting and vote-by-mail capabilities. We need to address voter suppression head on. And we must overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and reform campaign finance laws to prevent large corporations and billionaires from having an outsized voice in the electoral process.

Today in honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, I call on Americans to pursue equity with the same vigor as the suffragists. Question rules and laws that obstruct political participation. Speak out against injustices. And continue to fight for policies that center our Nation's political process on ``we the people.''

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