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Politics: King family to rally in Arizona for voting bills for MLK Day

King family: ‘Difficult decision’ to attend Biden’s voting rights speech

  King family: ‘Difficult decision’ to attend Biden’s voting rights speech “It’s been a long year of a lot of things not being done, and we stand and we share that frustration,” Arndrea Waters King said.“We certainly understand the frustration of our local partners here in Georgia,” Arndrea Waters King told MSNBC in an interview. “It’s been a long year of a lot of things not being done, and we stand and we share that frustration.

PHOENIX (AP) — As the nation prepares to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some members of his family are spending it in conservative-leaning Arizona to mobilize support for languishing federal voting rights legislation.

FILE - Martin Luther King III speaks during a rally for voting rights, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. As communities across the nation prepare to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., some members of his family are spending it in conservative-leaning Arizona to mobilize support for languishing federal voting rights legislation. Martin Luther King III, his wife and their 13-year-old daughter will take part Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in an on-the-ground campaign for voting rights in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Martin Luther King III speaks during a rally for voting rights, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. As communities across the nation prepare to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., some members of his family are spending it in conservative-leaning Arizona to mobilize support for languishing federal voting rights legislation. Martin Luther King III, his wife and their 13-year-old daughter will take part Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 in an on-the-ground campaign for voting rights in Phoenix.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Martin Luther King III; his wife, Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter Yolanda Renee King, 13, will take part Saturday in an on-the-ground campaign for voting rights in Phoenix. They will march with local activists and supporters from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church, and speak about the importance of “no celebration without legislation.”

As voting rights push fizzles, Biden's failure to unite his own party looms again

  As voting rights push fizzles, Biden's failure to unite his own party looms again Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, both Democrats, said Thursday they were against filibuster changes, spoiling Biden's efforts to pass voting rights.On Thursday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, dealt a potentially fatal blow to Biden’s renewed push for federal voting rights legislation. In a surprise speech on the Senate floor, she flatly rejected Biden’s plea – issued less than 48 hours earlier – to change the filibuster rules so Democrats could muscle through the voting rights bill without any Republican votes.

“Our daughter has less rights around voting than she had when she was born,” King, the civil rights leader's oldest son, said in an interview. “I can’t imagine what my mother and father would say about that. I’m sure they’re turning over and over in their graves about this.”

Arizona is one of 19 states that have passed over 30 state voting laws in the last year — including a ban on giving water to voters in long lines, and stricter ballot signature requirements — that King called “draconian.” They make it harder for people to vote, especially people of color, he said.

Another reason the family chose to appear in Arizona is to send a message to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat.

President Joe Biden had implored Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, to end the filibuster that requires support from 60 of 100 senators to pass most legislation.

Americans see Martin Luther King Jr as a hero now, but that wasn't the case during his lifetime

  Americans see Martin Luther King Jr as a hero now, but that wasn't the case during his lifetime The fact that King is now beloved and has a national holiday commemorating his birthday wasn't something that obviously was going to happen during his lifetime During the 1960s, King was a very divisive figure. The last Gallup poll to ask about his popularity during his lifetime, taken in 1966, found his unfavorable rating was 63%. This included 39% of Americans who gave him a -5 rating on a scale, with -5 being least favorable and +5 being most favorable. King's highly negative rating came when he had turned his attention from southern de jure segregation toward de facto segregation in northern cities.

But Sinema poured cold water on the voting rights legislation Thursday, making clear in a dramatic speech on the Senate floor that she would not alter filibuster rules so it could move forward. The filibuster, she said, forces bipartisan cooperation. Otherwise, Republicans could just repeal and replace whenever they rise to power.

“We must address the disease itself, the disease of division, to protect our democracy,” said Sinema, drawing disappointment from fellow Democrats.

Simena cannot simultaneously express support for the bills and block their path, King said.

“History will remember Sen. Sinema, I believe unkindly, for her position on the filibuster," he said.

The plea from the King family brings an especially powerful voice to an increasingly tense campaign to pressure Sinema to change her mind. Progressive groups have installed billboards and aired television ads, and activists even harassed Sinema in a bathroom at Arizona State University and a friend’s wedding where the senator officiated.

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Congressional Democrats have written voting legislation that would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections in a generation by striking down hurdles to voting enacted in the name of election security. The legislation also would reduce the influence of big money in politics and limit partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.

It also includes the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would strengthen civil rights-era voting law and honor the legacy of the late Georgia congressman.

Supporters had hoped legislation would advance by the MLK holiday. Still encouraged, King urged people to take action like sign petitions or call their senators. The holiday is “not a traditional celebration where you kick back, eat barbeque and just relax,” he said. "This is about working.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, having worked closely as a young man with Martin Luther King Jr., said Friday that he was worried about the current lack of political consensus on voting rights. Previously, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with both parties recognizing the historic nature of the legislation.

“The right to vote was the crown jewel of the civil rights struggle,” Jackson said in a phone interview, adding that “we’re in a desperate situation.”

Ultimately, he agrees with members of the King family who are pushing for MLK Day celebrations to take a different tone until Congress acts on the voting rights bills.

“There’s no time to celebrate,” Jackson said. “It’s time to demonstrate, march in big numbers. We cannot just be silent observers in this fight.” ___

Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.

Voting rights fight shifts back to statehouses as Senate Democrats fail to advance national protections .
Just weeks from the first primaries of the 2022 midterm elections, the fight over voting rights is unfolding again at the state level -- with Republicans in several swing states proposing new measures that would make it harder to vote. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images A view of voting booths at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on October 13, 2020 in San Jose, California.

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