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Renewed push for Congress to pass protection for voting rights

Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 9:39 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The U.S. Senate was supposed to take up the big voting rights legislation on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. However, the vote was pushed back to Tuesday.

“History will be watching what happens tomorrow. Black and brown Americans will be watching what happens tomorrow. In 50 years, students will read about what happens tomorrow and know whether our leaders had the integrity to do the right thing,” said Dr. King’s son, Martin Luther King III.

On the eve of a possible showdown on voting rights in this country, 100 grassroots organizations joined Martin Luther King III and his family in a march in Washington.

Marchers and the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have called voting rights a pivotal part of Dr. King’s agenda.

“Dr. King discovered the fact that we were being dehumanized and discriminated against in terms of voter rights,” said Dr. Charles Steel, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Freedom to Vote Act includes measures, including:

  • Universal absentee ballot voting
  • Allowing people to register on election day
  • Restoring the right to vote for convicted felons
  • Creating a national election day holiday

“Which is something you see in almost every democracy in the world and it’s how you create, not just the opportunity to vote, but also the energy to say to people this is so important. We want to make sure that you recognize that it’s a holiday,” said Debby Gould, president of League of Women Voters Tennessee.

Gould says the group supports the Freedom to Vote Act as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which upholds the 1965 Voting Rights Act and prevents racial discrimination at the polls.

“This used to be a pretty standard issue that all Americans cared about with voting. League of Women Voters, as a non-partisan organization, would like for it to be a non-partisan issue again,” said Gould.

But it’s not. The vote is split directly down party lines.

Both Republican senators for Tennessee have spoken out against the bills.

Monday, Bill Hagerty’s camp sent us this statement:

“Sadly, President Biden continues to ignore the real problems facing the American people and focus instead on the problems facing politicians. Following right behind him, this week nearly all Senate Democrats will attempt to destroy the U.S. Senate and silence half of its members in order to execute a partisan election power grab. Democrats’ reckless, hyperbolic claims that American democracy is on the verge of collapse unless we enact their hyper-partisan agenda are self-serving, patently absurd, and dangerous. Moreover their cynical attempt to expropriate in service of that agenda the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which should be beyond political partisanship, is beyond the pale. Democrats are not after voting rights; they are after power. Election outcomes should be determined by the voters, not the politicians.”

Nevertheless, supporters and Democrats are calling on a vote and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says a vote will happen this week.

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