King Holiday Re-Ignites Call for Voting Rights

By Gregory T. Moore

As Ohio and the nation commemorate the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, civil rights advocates still find themselves engaged in struggles to preserve the civil and voting rights that were established during the civil rights movement led by Dr. King. Today, there are ever-increasing pronouncements in the media that indicate our democracy is facing its greatest threat as states are accelerating their efforts to restrict voting rights across the U.S., including here in Ohio.

In Washington, look no further than the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass a new formula for the sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) that were struck down in 2013 by the US Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder landmark decision. The court ruled that the VRA’s formula for the Department of Justice’s pre-clearance of their new state election laws was outdated and unconstitutional. Many political leaders in Washington have blamed the Supreme Court’s ruling for the continued failure to fix the VRA. However, the U.S. Congress is the only governmental institution that can repair the damage to the VRA inflicted by the Supreme Court ruling according to the Brennen Center for Justice.

Despite the fact that Republicans now control the U.S. House of Representatives, many advocates have not absolved the new Congress of the responsibility to take action to restore and protect the voting rights of all Americans. They have vowed to continue their advocacy for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act into law as a remedy to the court’s decision as their top priority. With the raucous dysfunctional beginning of the 118th Congress, prospects for passing this or any important civil rights legislation in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are grim.

By the same token, the voters of Ohio will soon face a new wave of restrictive voter suppression bills and constitutional amendments introduced by the Republican-controlled Ohio Assembly that voting advocates claim will dilute the voting strength of all Ohio voters. Bill HB458 passed during the lame-duck session by the Ohio legislature reduces early voting, restricts mail-in balloting, and imposes strict ID requirements on Ohio Voters according to the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition.

The League of Women Voters, the Ohio NAACP, and other advocates have argued that HB458 will make it harder for African Americans, young people, the elderly, and the disabled to cast a vote. The newly seated Republican-controlled and gerrymandered Ohio legislature is also considering legislation that will make it even harder for voters to amend the Ohio constitution or repeal their regressive anti-voter and anti-worker laws through the referendum process.

Ohio voter advocates vow to continue to live up to the hopes and dreams of Martin Luther King by calling on Governor Mike DeWine to resist the efforts of the hyper-partisan Ohio legislature to restrict Ohioan’s voting rights and freedom to vote. Click here to learn more and take action.