SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As many marked the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, voting rights advocates pushed for passage of two federal bills they say ensures minority participation in elections.
Cliff Albright and LaTosha Brown, co-founders of Black Voters Matter, said in part: “There is a cruel hypocrisy that, today, the United States Senate has taken a vacation day to acknowledge Dr. King’s legacy while two critical voting rights bills – the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – languish on the Senate floor.”
Nineteen states, including Georgia have changed election laws since the 2020 election. In most cases, all states made it harder to obtain an absentee ballot.
The two federal laws would make it more difficult for states to pass election restrictions.
Sunday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina and the House Majority Whip, said a vote should be taken in the U.S. Senate.
“We used to sing a song, John Lewis loved that song, which side are you on?” said Clyburn. “We’ve got to fight, we’ve got to have these votes.”
Last week, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris came to Georiga to urge passage of the bills and to urge that Democrats change the filibuster rules to debate and pass the legislation.
“The fundamental right to vote is the right from which all other fundamental rights flow,” said Biden.
On that same day, however, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp made it clear he and state lawmakers stand by the state’s new election law.
“Make no mistake, Georgia is ground zero for the Biden-Harris assault on election integrity,” said Kemp. “Ignoring facts, this administration has lied about Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the beginning. The facts are simple: Georgia’s SB 202 expands early voting opportunities and secures drop boxes around the clock.”
The clash between red states that have changed election laws and the democratic leaders who want the federal legislation passed continued even on MLK Jr. Day.
Clyburn said on NBC that the Senate filibuster rules should be changed, but also acknowledged there seems no chance of that since two Democrats won’t go along. Still, Clyburn asserted the Senate should hold a vote and make every Senator go on the record about voting rights and where they stand.
“People tell me they are for this legislation but they are against the processes that we need in order to get the legislation,” said Clyburn. “Well, then I don’t think they’re on the right side of history.”
In addition to changes about absentee ballots, Georgia’s new law allows the Republican-controlled legislature more control over who heads up the state election board and more power to replace local election board members.
Speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Harris said the right to vote is under assault.
“The proponents of these laws are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections,” the vice president said.
Still, Georgia and other states continue to defend passage of their new laws and Senate leaders look for a way forward that most critics say won’t be found.