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The timeliness of this historical reference is painfully obvious as we are witnessing a growing cry for censorship, even book burning.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.
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:
- The Primary Election is May 17 and polling places are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. (click here to locate your polling place)
- If you intend to vote by mail you must apply by May 10, 2022 at 5 p.m. (Click here to apply to vote by mail)
- If you are voting by mail, your voted ballot must be received by the election authorities by 8 p.m. on Primary Election Day, May 17, 2022.
- You may track the status of your mail-in ballot by clicking here.
- You may also drop your ballot off at a Chester County mail-ballot drop box beginning today May 3 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day. All ballots must be dropped by 8 p.m. on May 17. (Click here to find a drop box near you)
Fight back! Make your plan to vote today.