“I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
January 15th marks the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the nearest Monday the day of his national commemoration. However, Dr. King’s family has very clearly stated that there is no room for celebration without legislation — for voting rights.
As King taught, America’s systems are built on a history of slavery, racism, and inequality and they need to be changed to reflect values of justice, freedom, and equality for all. Work still to be done.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. The ACLU works to protect and expand Americansʼ freedom to vote.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a lifelong advocate for voting rights. Currently, states across the country are continuing to pass measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly people of color, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their right to cast a ballot. This looks like additional obstacles to registration, cutbacks on early and mail-in voting, and strict voter identification requirements.
In 2022, the same day we as a nation were remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the U.S. Senate had the opportunity to pass two historic federal voting laws — Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — that would make voting more accessible for more people. But with no thanks to — in King’s words — some “misguided senators”, they didn’t pass .
And so the fight for protecting this most fundamental of civil liberties continues. As we well know, one of the most powerful tools we have to effect the change we seek is the ability to elect representatives whom align with our values and are invested in social-, climate-, and racial justice. We cannot change these systems if the ability to cast a ballot is inaccessible to anyone.
We can honor the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and his colleagues by supporting the work of The ACLU who, since 1920, is working to protect Americansʼ civil liberties, including the freedom to vote. Through litigation and advocacy, the ACLU is fighting back against attempts to curtail this essential right in our democracy.
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." — Martin Luther King Jr., letter from Birmingham jail 1963
Our Voting Rights: What’s At Stake
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