Voting rights front and center on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

2 voting reform bills being debated in Congress

ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida residents are joining federal leaders and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family calling for action on two bills aimed at protecting voting rights.

On Monday morning, the late activist’s son and his family lead a peace walk for voting rights in Washington DC. President Biden also released a statement, saying the holiday is the time to commit to Dr. King’s unfinished work.

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Fairolyn Livingston, 75, was all smiles at an event in Winter Park aimed at honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King and also honoring the city’s rich Black history here in Winter Park.

“It’s important that all people know about the legacy of Dr. King,” said Livingston. “Today’s atmosphere with the divisiveness, I think it’s more important than ever that Dr. King’s legacy is talked about, and taught and remembered.”

She’s also calling on Congress to pass two voting rights bills.

The Freedom to Vote Act would establish Election Day as a federal holiday and also ensure that every state has a standard practice for early and mail-in voting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill adds new criteria for states before they can make changes to voting practices.

Here in Florida, lawmakers passed a controversial elections bill last year restricting voting by mail and limiting drop boxes. Opposing lawmakers have filed bills to expand access to voting and voter registration.

“As we recognize Dr. King and commemorate him today, It’s as Americans that we recognize the importance of democracy,” said UCF Professor Dr. Larry Walker, whose expertise is leadership, race and policy.

“We have to make sure everyone has the right to vote and not restrict it on hours or identification or other restrictions that we know black and brown communities often encounter,” said Dr. Walker.

“The only way we can move forward is to continue to educate people about our heritage and the path that Dr. King brought us to today,” said Robert Knight, event planner of the Winter Park Unity Heritage Festival.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.