About 50 people, mostly residents of Prince William and Fauquier, lit electronic candles and their cell phones in a show of support for efforts to expand voting access during a “Good Trouble” vigil at Manassas National Battlefield Park Saturday evening.
The event followed a day-long observation of the 160th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas, the first major land battle of the American Civil War.
The vigil was organized by volunteers and was one of 140 “Good Trouble Vigils for Democracy” held nationwide to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Georgia Congressman John Lewis and to call on Congress to realize Lewis’s vision to expand access to the polls via the proposed John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act.
The former would restore some federal oversight to state election law changes while the latter would enact sweeping changes that aim to making voting easier and more secure across the country. Critics, including many Republican lawmakers, say the measures would take away states’ rights to control the voting and elections process.
Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-11th, spoke about his personal relationship with Lewis and the years they served together in Congress. He explained that they shared a common office corridor and would see each other regularly. He relayed a favorite story about Lewis involving a decision to engage in a sit in on the House floor over gun safety legislation, a tactic suggested by Lewis as “necessary good trouble.”
Several elected officials and candidates spoke at the vigil including, Del. Danica Roem, D-13th, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st, Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth, Supervisor Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan, and a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 5th congressional district, Dr. Shadi Ayyas.
The general theme of the talks included the importance of protecting the right to vote and the Virginia legislature’s recent passage of historic voting rights legislation that expanded voting access in Virginia, bucking the more restrictive trends seen in many other Southern states.
Over the past two years, Virginia repealed the commonwealth’s voter photo identification law, enacted no-excuse absentee voting, made the November Election Day a state holiday and passed automatic voter registration for any person who applies for or renews a Virginia driver’s license and is eligible to vote.