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Rep. John Lewis: ‘Your Vote Is Precious, Almost Sacred’

September 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Georgia congressman John Lewis addressed the Democratic National Convention on the historic suppression of voters' rights, linking past injustices to new new voting legislation.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Democratic National Convention has gaveled into session on this day three, beginning about an hour ago. Let’s go straight to the floor where veteran Georgia congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis is speaking.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-Ga.): Do you want to go back?

CROWD: No!

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Or do you want to keep America moving forward?  

CROWD: Yes!

REP. JOHN LEWIS: My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred.

It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) 

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax.

On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar — all to keep them from casting their ballot. 

Today, it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials who are trying to stop some people from voting.

(BOOING)

REP. JOHN LEWIS: They are changing –  they are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote.

The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter I.D. law is “going to allow Governor Romney to win the state.”  

That’s not right. That’s not fair. And that is not just.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

REP. JOHN LEWIS: And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, and South Carolina.

I have seen this before. I lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

REP. JOHN LEWIS: And we have come too far together to ever turn back.

So, Democrats, we must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

REP. JOHN LEWIS: We must march to the polls like never, ever before. We must come together and exercise our sacred right. And together, on November 6, we will reelect the man who will lead America forward, President Barack Obama.