While the third Monday in January may be considered a holiday for some, as government offices and the Federal Reserve are closed, this year’s gatherings for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be assembled for another purpose.
“No celebration without legislation”
is the sentiment being shared by the King family. This week, the King family requested a pause in celebrations and parades honoring the late civil rights hero’s birthday and instead dedicating efforts towards voting rights.
The family has made it clear that until the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are passed, there is little to celebrate and efforts should be focused on the betterment of voting rights. The King family has shared that they wish “to restore and expand voting rights to honor Dr. King’s legacy,” and Martin Luther King III, the son of the late Dr. King, stated in an interview that “our daughter has less rights around voting than she had when she was born”.
Rallies and marches for MLK day have centered around Arizona, the home of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema who supports the voting rights bill but not at the expense of the filibuster, something she claims maintains the checks and balances in the Senate.
Arizona is part of the 19 states that have passed voting legislation deemed unfriendly to voters, with theirs specifically containing items such as the prohibition of water being handed out to voters waiting in line to vote. They are also one of the states along with North Dakota that formally bar noncitizens from voting, an act that directly combats legislation like the one passed in NYC last December.
New York City Voting Rights
At the beginning of December, New York City became the largest city to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. This now allows the 80,000 non-citizens who reside in New York City who pay taxes, participate in public services such as transportation, and send their children to public schools, the ability to have a say in who represents them as mayor or for their city council district. On the other side, the opponents of the bill had stated that non-citizens would be discouraged to seek citizenship and voters’ rights would be hurt as someone who has only resided in the city for 30 days would now have a say over how things are run.
But this legislation is not new, towns in Maryland and Vermont have passed laws granting non-citizens the right to vote and areas of California, Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts are the next to bring it to a vote.
Voting Rights Acts on a National Level
While the current voting rights bill that has passed the House and is headed to the Senate does not contain motions to grant voting rights to all, there are some key components that may make voting more accessible for Americans. Some of the integral parts in the bill are as follows:
- Placing a limit on drawing congressional boundaries (also known as gerrymandering)
- Creating a federal holiday for elections
- Extending the window of time to vote to 15 days
- Providing anyone the ability to request a mail-in ballot
- Enhancing election security
- Bringing back US oversight in states that have histories of voter discrimination.
While seems that this voting rights bill has come to the end in the Senate, Martin Luther King III feels his parents would not agree with the current state of voting rights stating, “I’m sure they’re turning over and over in their graves about this.”
Alda is a mom, Brooklynite, and real estate lover. In her free time, she cruises real estate listings to dream of a perfectly attainable several million-dollar brownstone, much to her husband's annoyance. Alda is also convinced she knows everything there is to know about New York City, based solely on consistent people-watching and eavesdropping. Mrs. Burrows would be an amazing trivia partner but instead chooses to write about all the random stuff she knows.