NEW ORLEANS - During today's regular meeting, the City Council adopted Resolution R-20-220, voicing its support of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Board of Commissioners who recently declared free transportation days for all future citywide election days in Orleans Parish.
According to American Community Survey data, approximately 1 in 5 New Orleans households lack access to a vehicle, and with so many families already cost-burdened, transit fare can present incredible challenges to exercising their right to vote.
On June 23, the Board adopted Resolution 20-049, recognizing that the right to vote is a right that is essential to the effective operation of a democratic government. The Council commends the RTA for determining that public access to voting outweighs the anticipated loss of revenue. By eliminating this obstacle, so many more New Orleans residents will have the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote in this important upcoming election season.
"I'm reminded of conversations with my mother about her early life and the stumbling blocks deliberately placed in their paths to prevent them from exercising their right to vote. I'm reminded of my many talks with Jerome Smith about his fight to achieve the full measure rights promised to all American citizens. When voting rights were denied, our voices were muted, our interest were not represented and the basic needs of our communities were neither addressed or met. Despite the sacrifice and toil of countless men and women to achieve the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we still have laws on the books in the US that still serve to rob people of their rights. We have seen examples of voter suppression around the country in this current election season. It is incumbent upon us to constantly look for ways to make sure the voices of those who wish to be heard may be heard and counted at the polls," said Councilmember Jason Williams.
"It is our responsibility to do all we can to ensure accessible and fair elections. During this critical time when many people are struggling financially, we must ease burdens that could interfere with a person's ability to vote. This resolution supports the work of the RTA to ensure that transportation on Election Day will not be an obstacle. I hope that this initiative can be a model for other cities around Louisiana and the country to follow," said Councilmember Helena Moreno.
"The Council has a history of supporting New Orleanian's right to vote. It is important to our democratic process that voters can move freely with easier access to the polls. To that end, I passed a motion in December 2018 preventing any road race from being held the same day as an election. I'm proud to further Council's efforts to make election day even more accessible," said Councilmember Joseph I. Giarrusso III.
"Every person in New Orleans who wants to exercise their fundamental right to vote should have access to reliable and affordable transportation. I am excited that the RTA is helping voters overcome a barrier that may have kept them from participating in the democratic process, offering public transit rides at no cost to ensure everyone regardless of where they live in the city, age or political affiliation can get to the polls," said Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
"Across this country, there are active efforts to suppress voting. I am elated to live in a city where we do all we can do to encourage everyone citizen to vote. Declaring all future citywide election days as free ride days is a model that I hope every city implements," said Councilmember Jay H. Banks.
"Elections should be free and fair and that includes transportation for those who need it," said Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen. "I hope that Orleans voters will take advantage of this resource and vote!"
Keith D. Lampkin
Office of Jason R. Williams, Council-At-Large