Local left-leaning political activist groups are calling attention to what they feel are attacks on U.S. democracy as they hosted an event on the one-year anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
On Jan. 6, MoveOn-Clark County and Indivisible Greater Vancouver hosted a “Vigil for Democracy.” The event served as both a remembrance of the day’s events one year prior when the Capitol was breached and also touched on upcoming legislation the groups think will ensure the right to vote.
Hosted by Washington state 18th Legislative District Democratic Party Chair Shirin Elkoshairi, he said the event was a vigil for those who died in connection to the Jan. 6 events. The event was one of many hosted around the country on the anniversary, he said.
“We are currently in a situation where we run the risk of losing our democracy, and it’s important that everyone on this call understand that we have to have zero tolerance toward the people, the groups, the lawmakers, the politicians who don’t stand up against right-wing supremacy and those who would trample our nation’s Capitol,” Elkoshairi said.
The event specifically focused on two pieces of legislation, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Elkoshairi said actions taken by politicians to restrict voting rights could lead to a “slippery slope” where the ability to vote slowly erodes.
“It’s very easy to slide from an amazing, beautiful country into something pretty harrowing,” Elkoshairi said.
He noted he was in Egypt during the country’s 2011 revolution.
Tanisha Harris, an activist and former state legislative candidate, also reflected on the anniversary.
“I was appalled and saddened and in disbelief as those moments played out,” Harris said.
Harris said voting was instilled in her as a paramount responsibility as she grew up, especially since her family was impacted by voting rights acts passed in the 20th century.
“For me when I turned 18, not voting was not an option,” Harris said.
Though largely a Democratic Party event, Clark County Auditor and Republican Greg Kimsey was among those who spoke. Kimsey said the footage of the Jan. 6 events was painful to watch.
“I think that it’s incredibly important that we do everything in our power to make sure no one ever forgets what happened on that day,” he said.
Kimsey said the notion of a peaceful transfer of power “was shook to its core” that day. He recalled seeing unrest following an election in an African country several years prior and thought such activity wouldn’t be possible in the U.S.
Kimsey has served as the administrator of Clark County elections for close to 24 years. He spearheads the elections process, which included federally-certified voting machines, and logic and accuracy tests, as well as a thorough matching of signatures on ballots to ensure the integrity of the elections are met.
“Election administrators understand that we are an essential part of the foundation of our democratic system. We understand that citizens’ confidence, the integrity, the accuracy of the elections process is a fundamental part of our system of governance,” Kimsey said.
The undermining of that confidence is dangerous, Kimsey said. He said the undermining of confidence in news media may be even more damaging.
“Thomas Jefferson, for all his weaknesses, has this great statement where he says ‘give me a choice between government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I’d choose the latter,’” Kimsey said. “Without a newspaper … how are citizens going to get information about a lot of things, but in particular I think about local government.”