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Religious leaders in Maine push for Congress to pass voting rights bill

by Premier Journalist

A large group of religious leaders from Maine has signed a letter calling lawmakers to support the 'For The People Act'.

The bill addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance and ethics for the three branches of government. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g. automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g. vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls.

On Tuesday, a trio of religious leaders appeared in a news conference outside Portland's Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church. During the event, the ministers expressed that the For The People Act, a bill that would overhaul the rights of voters in the United States, should play an integral part in protecting the rights of vulnerable demographics.

"This is the nexus of public policy and faith for me: Members of Congress take an oath under God to protect and defend the Constitution. That also includes protecting the rights guaranteed to individuals under the Constitution," said Marge Kilkelly, a former state lawmaker. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Maine Council of Churches as their Episcopalian representative.

Christians were not the only ones present. Pious Ali, a city representative from Portland and the first African-born Muslim American elected to public office in Maine, appeared at the event, expressing how provisions in the Islamic faith prohibited oppression. Ali would state in an interview with the Religion News Service that "Not being allowed to participate in the central cornerstone of the democratic system…is oppression."

The letter, which received signatures from more than 125 religious clergy and faith practitioners, expressed their support for the bill, claiming that "Our faith calls us to support the most vulnerable, nurture human potential, root out systemic racism, and advance justice in our society." Thus, the faith leaders believe that "Collectively, we need an inclusive, representative and responsive democracy to answer that call. As people of faith and as your constituents, we ask that you support the For the People Act."

The speakers in question aimed their addresses toward Senators Angus King and Susan Collins. Both King and Collins currently serve Maine in the Senate and tend to stray across political lines.

The Religion News Service notes that while King is registered as independent, he votes Democrat. Collins is a registered Republican but occasionally votes in surprising ways. While that may sound hopeful, a local news outlet, Fox23, notes that while King (a Democrat) has expressed support for the bill, Collins believes that the "[For The People Act] is not legislation that could ever form the basis of a reasonable, bipartisan elections reform bill, and it is far more likely to sow more distrust in our elections than to ease the partisan divisions in our country."

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