King Family, Activists Plan Marches to Pressure Democrats on Voting Rights

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Still, some expressed optimism.

“I think we will get something, I really do,” Mr. Tester said.

Republicans say that Democrats are only seeking to tilt the election playing field to their own advantage and federalize what has traditionally been a state and local role in overseeing elections. They say that if state voting restrictions are considered discriminatory, it is up to the Justice Department to challenge them.

Under the Freedom to Vote Act, Congress would set minimum standards for early and mail-in voting, make Election Day a national holiday and allow requirements that voters produce identification, though the I.D. provision would be less restrictive than those Republicans have imposed. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by two Supreme Court decisions.

In a joint interview, the Kings portrayed the filibuster — which Southern senators used for decades to block civil rights measures — as a “Jim Crow relic” employed throughout history to deny rights to minorities, and called for its abolition. They noted that they still had to work to protect voting rights for coming generations represented by their 13-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renee King, decades after her grandfather helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act.

“I learned from my mother that every generation has to earn its freedom,” Mr. King said. “Freedom is not permanently given.”

Among the groups organizing and participating in the marches are the National Action Network, National Urban League, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, MoveOn, Demos, the Center for Popular Democracy, Voto Latino, Sierra Club, Coalition for Peace, Faith in Public Life, When We All Vote, March For Our Lives, Bend the Arc and the African American Christian Clergy Coalition.

The Kings said they would happily cancel the demonstrations, should Congress find a way to enact the legislation before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a prospect that appears highly unlikely.

“If it does,” Mrs. King said, “then on Jan. 17, we will have a glorious celebration.”


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