Civil rights leaders call for presidential candidates' plans to boost turnout
© Greg Nash

Martin Luther King III and Ambassador Andrew Young, a key civil rights leader and ally of Martin Luther King Jr., want presidential hopefuls to commit to plans to boost voter turnout to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. 

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“Our country deserves to know that our next president is committed to fixing our broken voting system; otherwise, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on August 6th will be a time for mourning not joy,” Young wrote in a letter to the presidential field released by his organization Why Tuesday?.

“I am writing to ask you, as a candidate for the highest office in the land, to affirm your commitment to realize Dr. King’s dream of full participation in our democracy. He said that the longest stride for democracy is the short step into the voting booth. Together we can forever ensure that every eligible voter can easily take that step.”

Young is a former congressman from Georgia, United Nations ambassador and mayor of Atlanta. He also worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a main civil rights organization of which Martin Luther King Jr. served as president.

Martin Luther King III, who is a Why Tuesday? board member, recalled his father’s commitment to expanding voting rights during the civil rights movement. 

“My father believed that the right to vote was mightier than any sword and it is a shame that so few politicians today are working to ensure that every citizen has the ability to wield that sacred power.” 

Why Tuesday? advocates for boosting voter turnout. The name of the group references a deeper question about why Americans vote on Tuesday, specifically on the Tuesday of the first full week of November.

The group calls for a number of changes, including making Election Day a national holiday, instituting weekend and online voting and expanding access to absentee ballots and voter ID cards. It also calls for a fix to the Voting Rights Act, which had a key piece ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a way to restore the policy, which forced certain areas with a history of voter discrimination to run any election law changes by the Justice Department. But so far, that hasn’t seen much movement in Congress.