MLK III, grassroots organizations to push for voting rights on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Bonnie Cash

Martin Luther King III and a coalition of grassroots organizations will make a push for federal voting rights legislation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next month, after a number of bills to address voting on the national level have stalled in Congress.

Members of the King family — King III, the son of King Jr., his wife Andrea Waters King and their daughter Yolanda Renee King — along with dozens of national and grassroots organizations on Wednesday announced plans to dedicate next month’s holiday to advocating for voting rights legislation in honor of the late civil rights leader’s legacy.

They said they will call on President Biden and the Senate to pass national voting rights legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, without allowing the “Jim Crow filibuster” to “stand in the way.”

The group pointed to Biden’s efforts in recent months to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying “you delivered for bridges, now deliver for voting rights.”

“President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure,” King III, said in a statement.

“Like those who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, we will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father’s dream for a more equal and just America,” he added.

Passing those pieces of federal voting rights legislation, however, has already proved to be a difficult task. Senate Republicans last blocked the chamber from starting debate on the bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) last month, and the Freedom to Vote Act in October.

During both votes, Democrats fell short of securing the 60 votes needed to start debate on the pieces of legislation.

Republicans’ refusal to support Democrat-backed voting rights legislation has frustrated the party and activists alike, as the issue continues to stall on Capitol Hill.

Democrats have had discussions about potentially nixing the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, an idea that a number of members have gotten behind, but a pair of moderate senators are not on board.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.), however, have expressed reservations. Manchin has said rule changes should be bipartisan, and Sinema appeared skeptical when it came to a carve-out for specific issues.

The push for federal voting rights legislation will begin in Arizona on Jan. 15, King Jr.’s birthday, where King IIi’s family and local groups will gather supporters in Phoenix.

The family and hundreds of others will then travel to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17 to cross the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and take part in the annual D.C. Peace Walk: Change Happens with Good Hope and a Dream.

The National Action Network, National Urban League, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Voto Latino, Sierra Club, When We QAll Vote and March For Our Lives are all part of the effort, among others.

The push comes after a year that saw a number of local governments spearhead voting legislation following the 2020 presidential election. According to the Brennan Center, 19 states had enacted 33 laws as of Oct. 4 that will make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

Tags Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis Martin Luther King III Martin Luther King Jr. Day voting rights
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