Martin Luther King III and Voting Rights Leaders Respond to January 6th Anniversary

Alexis McGill Johnson, Wade Henderson, Rev. Sharpton, Rahna Epting, Maurice Mitchell and More Comment on State of Democracy

Washington, DC – One year ago today, white supremacists invaded the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the fair and free results of the 2020 presidential election. On the same day, Black and Brown organizers in Georgia led Democrats to a governing trifecta. Both events shaped 2021 and impacted American democracy. Since the insurrection, over 400 pieces of voter suppression legislation have been introduced around the country, with 33 anti-voting bills passing in 19 states.

“January 6th was a physical manifestation of the unequal structures of American democracy,” said Martin Luther King III, Chairman of the Drum Major Institute. “The agitators of this attempted coup are still holding public office, still perpetuating lies about voter fraud, and still aiming to suppress Black and Brown political power without consequence. If Congress does not urgently pass voting rights legislation and protect all Americans’ right to vote, the insurrectionists win. This is our moment to rise up, channel the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, and demand action — the stakes are too high to give up.”

“The Capitol attack was just the beginning of the campaign to overthrow our democracy,” said Arndrea Waters King, President of the Drum Major Institute. “White supremacists failed to steal the presidential election, so now they’re trying to steal it in the states. Dozens of voter suppression bills have passed around the country since the insurrection — these attacks on our democracy are less visible but no less insidious. We must fight against these anti-democratic laws as fervently as we condemn the insurrectionists.”

Yesterday, Martin Luther King III and Arndrea Waters King hosted a press call with voting rights leaders about the anniversary of January 6th and what it means for our democracy. Selected quotes from the conversation here:

“It’s no coincidence that the same politicians pushing voting restrictions are the architects of some of the most egregious abortion bans in the country right now,” said Alexis McGill-Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “These policies do exactly what they are designed to do: disenfranchise Black and Brown people, women, people with low incomes, and the LGBTQ+ community. Let’s be clear, we can’t vote our way out of these attacks if we can’t vote.”

“It is clear that rather than serving as a ‘cooling saucer’ for the House’s hot tea, the filibuster has once again become a tool of the minority to chill any movement on critical legislation,” said Wade Henderson, Interim President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our coalition has long recognized the troubling role of the filibuster in abetting those who are hostile to civil rights. The time has finally come to address its continued use. Arcane Senate rules must not be a barrier to the ballot box or used as a tool to undermine democracy. I implore the Senate to do whatever it takes to reform the filibuster and safeguard elections for all Americans.”

“If the Senate cannot pass the Voting Rights Act before the King holiday, they are making a mockery of the holiday,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder, National Action Network. “Therefore, no one should have a celebration on Monday at any time. There should be rallies and activism if these bills are not there.”

“We will never stop mobilizing and getting out the vote, we will never stop and give up on the dream of American democracy. That’s what we are committed to do, no matter what,” said Rahna Epting, Executive Director of MoveOn. “But it is a joke to think that we can out organize voter suppression in perpetuity. It’s a falsehood to think we can out organize systemic attempts to take away people’s access to the ballot box and systemic attempts to marginalize the voices of voters. Today’s Republican party knows that that is their plan. What happens in the next week in Congress will determine whether we continue to have free and fair elections in this nation, or if we’re going to allow one party to systematically destroy the great American experiment.”

“In the face of state-level laws aimed at making voting more restrictive, America must enact federal legislation to make the franchise more inclusive,” said Taifa Smith Butler, president of Demos. “The Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — which include provisions like same-day registration, small-donor public financing, and safeguards against anti-voter legislation — will prevent further discrimination against Black and brown voters, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and overall, strengthen our democracy.”

“It is no coincidence that the rise of the modern Jim Crow laws are inspired by the rise of the multicultural youth who happen to be disproportionately Brown and Black,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of Voto Latino. “In fact, two thirds of newly eligible voters by 2024 will be from BIPOC communities. Anti-democratic individuals are trying to stand between the voters and the ballot box are focused on one thing: power.”

“This is a critical moment for our nation, especially for women. It is a moment where we have to decide whether we will pursue a path that divides us and seeks to disempower and disenfranchise millions,” said Jocelyn Frye, President of National Partnership for Women & Families. “Or will we embrace our core values of mutual dignity, respect, and justice for all. For women, the answer to that question is clear.  Access to the vote has been at the heart of women’s progress. It is the mechanism that enabled women to be full participants in our society. That’s why we call on President Biden and Congress to immediately pass voting rights legislation to protect our democracy for future generations.”

“Voting rights underpins every other issue we’re fighting to advance,” said Maurice Mitchell, National Director of the Working Families Party. “Our communities want to see progress on the issues that most impact us — from gun violence to police violence, to economic equality, to racial justice to climate change. We must vote like our lives depend on it. We can’t let Senate rules and traditions, especially ones born of the Jim Crow South, stop us from guaranteeing the right to vote.”