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This year, on the national holiday dedicated to his father, Martin Luther King III and other activists gathered in Washington, D.C to urge President Biden and other congress members to act on two new voting bills.
Each year millions of Americans and people worldwide celebrate January 17 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist. He lost his life fighting for equality and civil rights for African Americans. This year, MLK day was a reminder that although the African American community has come a long way, there is still a lot of progress to be made.
Urging action from President Biden and other senators, King said, in an interview with Matt Johnson, WSB-TV, he was tired of patiently waiting for the president and other political figures to act.
“Last week, the President said he’s tired of being quiet about voting rights, well we’re tired about being patient,” said King.
Changing the Senate rules would prevent the bills from being blocked or filibustered. Filibusters have a long history in the manipulation of politics. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced a filibuster in 1964 for a bill that was eventually passed. If King, and other activists, get their way, Senate rules would change, and the two voting rights bills up for debate could pass with only 50 votes.
What are the bills?
The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act support making voting accessible to more Americans. These bills aim to increase voter registration while restoring the voting right to ex-convicts. Making election day a federal holiday and restricting gerrymandering (skewing electoral districts so one political party can create an unfair advantage) are also mandates of the news bills.
According to common cause.org, The Freedom To Vote Act is a “Bold, comprehensive package of democracy reforms.” Adapting these bills into law would level the political arena for those who have lost their voting privileges, such as people with felony convictions. These voter reform bills are game changes for the African American community.
Opposition to the Bills
Not everyone is happy with the new voting bills. King and other activists face opposition from conservative Demoncrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, other Senate Republicans who have cast doubt on the need to pass these bills.
According to Jay Williams with the StoneRidge Group, voter turnout has increased over the last few elections. He remained skeptical about Republican interference with voter rights.
“It’s really hard for me to believe that there’s some type of, you know, Republican effort to hurt voting rights when voting specifically in Georgia has increased every election cycle for the last three or four cycles,” Williams told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson.
Support for the bill
Despite the relaxed attitude concerning voting rights by President Biden and other senators, there are those out there who will stop at nothing to see the passage of these bills. Pastor Jamal Bryant at New Birth Baptist Church threatened a hunger strike to expedite the passage of the bills.
“Even for voting rights to be on the agenda is an affront to the King legacy and the holiday,” he (Bryant) said. “Everything that he died for, we are now reliving.”
As the country comes together to remember the man who left behind a legacy of inclusion, diversity, and equality, the ongoing battle to remain a place of opportunity for all must not be forgotten.
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