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Voting is the best way to put out the fires of burning books
May 5, 2022

by Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167)

On this day in history, May 3, 1953 the Westchester Conference of the American Library Association issued The Freedom to Read Statement, a declaration that received national attention at the time. To put the statement in context, it came about due to a growing censorship movement rooted in the anti-communist paranoia of McCarthyism.

The statement was simple and straight forward, composed of seven points. The first point best sums up the intent and importance of the message:

“1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.” (Read the complete statement posted on the website of the American Library Association.)

History repeating itself

The timeliness of this historical reference is painfully obvious as we are witnessing a growing cry for censorship, even book burning.  Would-be authoritarians behind this effort are motivated by the same kind of populist opportunism that made United States Senator Joseph McCarthy a household name.

That was nearly 70 years ago. And today, we find ourselves in similar circumstances, bending to the meritless calls from shameless demagogues to ban certain books in public schools.These book-banners are building a national network to do their bidding by running for local offices and school boards infiltrating grassroots America with their extremist points of view.

Elections matter

Those of us who disagree are not without the means to stop the radical right’s anti-American denial of our First Amendment right to free speech. We have a powerful tool called the vote.

Every election matters, and in challenging times some elections matter even more. We witnessed a gubernatorial election in Virginia last year produce a victory for a pro-censorship Republican falsly espousing the imagined dangers critical race theory to narrowly defeat a strong Democratic candidate. That victory spurred a nationwide onslaught of school board candidacies in pursuit of the same  goals.

In just two weeks from today, we have a Primary Election providing us with our first opportunity to fight back at the ballot box, drop box or blue and white mailbox.

Primary Election is Tuesday, May 17

Every single voter we turn out in the Primary Election significantly increases the likelihood the same voters will turn out in the November General Election. Voting gives voters a sense of ownership in our Democracy and the more people who experience that the better.

Here are some points to remember:

Fight back! Make your plan to vote today.

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