In 2023, State Voices’ commitment to year-round power-building for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities has meant securing key legislative, judicial, and organizing victories across the country. To create a democracy that counts every vote, hears every voice, and meets every need, we must use every tool available to us – including fighting in state legislatures, the courts, and through ballot measures to build the democracy we deserve.
This summer, we’re reflecting on key victories and ongoing efforts to strengthen and expand voting rights, fair representation, economic justice, reproductive justice, climate justice, and more. As 2023 legislative sessions wind down in many states, outlined below is a brief snapshot of just some of the victories our network of 25 State Tables and more than 1,200 nationwide partners has secured so far this year.
Fighting Racial Gerrymandering
In June, the Supreme Court issued a decision affirming a key pillar of the Voting Rights Act by striking down racially gerrymandered voting maps in Alabama and ending a hold on a Louisiana redistricting case, likely paving the way for increased representation for Black voters in Congress.
State Voices Tables Alabama Forward in Alabama and Power Coalition for Equity and Justice in Louisiana were instrumental in securing these monumental victories. The ruling from the Court marks a major victory not only for Black voters who have been disenfranchised and pushed to the sidelines, but for everyone who believes in a fair and representative democracy. The decision reaffirmed the power of voters and organizers to hold politicians accountable and protect voting rights in Alabama and across the country.
Evan Milligan, Alabama Forward Executive Director, is featured on CNN.
Restoring Voting Rights
As part of a broader fight against oppressive and anti-democratic efforts to make it harder for millions of people in the U.S. to vote, several states advanced key measures in 2023 to expand access to voting.
In Minnesota and New Mexico, State Voices Tables Minnesota Voice and the Center for Civic Policy worked with partners to pass legislation to allow people previously convicted of felonies to vote upon leaving prison and established automatic voter registration. The Minnesota law also allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote while the New Mexico law makes it easier for Native American officials to place polling locations on tribal land.
In Nevada, State Voices Table Silver State Voices worked alongside partners to pass a new law allowing people in county and city jails who have not been charged with a crime to register and vote using an absentee ballot. By protecting and restoring voting rights for people impacted by the criminal legal system, we’re creating a path to restorative justice while improving our democracy.
Nevada advocates, including Silver State Voices Executive Director Emily Zamora, join Assemblywoman Brittney Miller and Governor Joe Lombardo for the signing of voting rights restoration bill AB286.
Protecting Majority Rule and Supporting Reproductive and Economic Justice
It’s been just over a year since the fall of Roe v. Wade and the constitutionally protected right to an abortion nationwide, marking a shift in which state legislatures and ballot measures have now become central to reproductive justice and abortion access.
In Ohio, Ohio Voice worked with partners to successfully defeat a thinly veiled attack on abortion rights by voting down Issue One during an August special election, making over 2.5 million attempts to contact voters and over 30,000 successful contacts. If passed, Issue One would have made it harder for voters to pass ballot measures that change the state constitution – including the November reproductive freedom initiative – by establishing a new, higher threshold of 60% of votes to do so. In July, reproductive freedom advocates in Ohio submitted nearly 500,000 valid signatures to secure a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November – collecting nearly double the required signature amount.
Ohio Voice and advocates gather for an Issue One watch party on August 8th, 2023.
State Voices Florida is also doing everything they can to support partners in a campaign to protect abortion access. Just two months after the launch of the historic effort to get abortion on the Florida ballot in 2024, the Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign passed the half a million mark for petitions collected.
In Michigan, State Voices Table Michigan Voices supported a new law repealing a century-old provision that criminalized abortion. In Minnesota, Minnesota Voice helped advance new legislation that codifies abortion rights and the right to contraception and fertility treatment into state law. And in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Table helped to boost record turnout in April for a critical state Supreme Court election in which many voters shared that abortion rights were their top priority.
The Floridians Protecting Freedom campaign supporters celebrate pride month and rally for reproductive justice.
In addition to protecting the right to an abortion, the State Voices Network has also been working to combat economic inequality and support working families, including the passage of new paid family leave legislation in Maine. Maine Voices Network partners helped pass a law that will provide crucial economic support for working people and made Maine just the 13th state in the nation to pass paid family and medical leave.
Responding to the Climate Crisis
Being good stewards of the planet is essential to ensuring the well-being of communities now and in the future, which is why the State Voices Network continues to press for solutions to the climate crisis with several ongoing efforts across multiple states. Communities of color are on the frontlines of the climate crisis, being disproportionately impacted by extreme weather events and having reduced access to environmental resources.
In Kentucky, partners with the Kentucky Civic Engagement Table (KCET), including the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition, are knocking on doors in communities about a dangerous and destructive natural gas pipeline. They’re also influencing environmental decision-making through statewide utility campaigns and working with Kentuckians for Energy Democracy to participate in public hearings. After a series of tornadoes in western Kentucky and flooding across the state, KCET has been mobilizing mutual aid for directly impacted folks in both regions while building long-term organizing infrastructure.
In Louisiana, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice is advocating for a measure to require localities to gain approval before moving ahead on certain industrial projects and establish mandatory air monitoring at industrial sites, as well as providing resources to prepare residents for hurricane season and supporting a recovery fund for natural disaster relief.
While many states are wrapping up their legislative calendars for 2023, our advocacy and civic engagement doesn’t stop at the end of a legislative session. With 2024 around the corner, we look forward to continuing to mobilize our communities, educate voters, and push for the accountable, representative democracy in which BIPOC communities can thrive.