On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the University’s Center for Peace and Justice hosted its annual Oscar Romero Solidarity lecture series.
The annual event typically takes place in the spring, but it was postponed until the fall semester, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March. The lecture was held via Zoom due to coronavirus restrictions.
Carolyn DeWitt, of the organization “Rock The Vote,” was selected as a speaker for the event, which was planned to honor Romeo’s feast day in March but changed to discussing voting and political participation.
Rock The Vote was founded in 1990 by music executives with the initial message: “Censorship is Un-American.” It claims to be a non-partisan organization aimed at registering young people to vote and fighting voter suppression of young voters.
DeWitt’s lecture, titled “Does Voting Even Matter?” discussed the importance of voting in every election.
She began by explaining the “no justice, no peace” chant, which has been prominent at nationwide protests this year. DeWitt connected the chant to sparking change and voting.
“It was first started in the 1980s with the protests of ethnic violence and the murder of Michael Griffith in 1986 and obviously continues in the call for justice across our country right now,” DeWitt said. “The state of justice or injustice…influences our chances for peace; there is no peace until there is justice.”
Voting suppression and the right to vote were also key points of DeWitt’s lecture. She stressed the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ensured the right to vote to all eligible citizens.
DeWitt continued by discussing the significance of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case in 2013. This case ruled section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional, a section that dealt with determining if jurisdictions served as bad actors and violated anti-discrimination protections in the Voting Rights Act. The Court ruled the section as unconstitutional because the formula had not been updated with new data in over 40 years.
“Seven years later, Congress has not updated [the] formula…therefore no jurisdiction meets the formula, because there is no formula, no jurisdiction is deemed a bad actor, therefore no jurisdiction has to ask permission before it changes anything to its voting laws,” DeWitt said.
She said the lack of a formula to determine bad actors has led to increased attempts at voter suppression. DeWitt called for everyone to use their right to vote.
She also touched on the importance of using this right to vote before it can get taken away. She promoted initiatives that Rock The Vote supports, including restoring the formula for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
She ended the lecture by discussing how to register to vote and how to research candidates before voting.
Rock The Vote has voter information available on its website (rockthevote.com), and information regarding voting in Pennsylvania can be found at pa.gov.
Voting registration for the 2020 election in Pennsylvania has completed, but students at the University will be provided with transportation to polls to vote on Election. This year, Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.