What would MLK, Jr. say about voting rights, Rep. Ferguson?

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“Pastor, leader, Georgian, and American hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed us that a good man has the power to change the course of history and inspire generations to fight for a better future. His legacy, his service and his dream will never be forgotten.- Tweet from Rep. Ferguson (01/17/22)

I first moved to rural Georgia in 1964 when I was in high school. At the time, most white Georgians despised MLK, Jr., calling him a communist, and many other worse things that I won’t repeat. Now it is celebrated in our state and our nation. As well it should be. However, the MLK Juniors name should not be used for political gain as its message of inclusivity and equality continues to be ignored by those same politicians, such as Rep. Ferguson.

For example, on the same Ferguson Twitter page, we find him railing against bills aimed at guaranteeing minority suffrage by saying “DC Democrats are trying to change the rules for their own political gain. Make no mistake, this facade of continuing to federalize US elections is not about voter integrity, it’s about control.”

Rep. Ferguson would have made a great Dixiecrat Democrat in the early 60s. They said the exact same thing when they opposed the Civil Rights Act. Only, these days, it’s the GOP that cynically opposes voting rights while using terms like “prevent fraud.” So Ferguson is a good choice.

The truth is very different from what Ferguson would have us believe. The 2020 election was widely hailed by local GOP and Democratic election officials as the most honest in our history. Objective reports showed the same – the election was fair with virtually no fraud.

But in Georgia, for example, the Democrats won both the Senate races and the presidential election. And the GOP is very afraid of losing power. Thus, GOP leaders have two choices: a. modify their policies to obtain more voters, in accordance with democracy or b. suppress the vote, as is done in dictatorships around the world.

There are many ways to suppress voting, as shown in a list from the Voters Rights Alliance (https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/forms-of-voter-suppression). Many of these techniques have been in place for some time. In Georgia, there are extremely long lines in urban counties like Fulton and DeKalb that tend to vote Democrats. In rural Georgia counties, which tend to vote GOP, there are no lines at all. Also, we then had Sec. of Kemp State purging hundreds of thousands of disproportionately minority voters from voter roles before his election as governor.

But it got much worse. There’s a long history of this crackdown in Georgia and the South, but now it’s happening in GOP-controlled states nationwide, made possible by the conservative Supreme Court that gutted the Human Rights Act. vote.

State after state, the GOP has chosen to suppress voting for minorities who vote primarily for Democrats. These enforcement efforts come in a wide range of bills, with 152 in 18 states under consideration in 2022 and 34 such restrictive laws passed in 2021 (such as SB 202 in Georgia). For a summary of them, see this report (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-december-2021).

To pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Democrats and Republicans came together. While the Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act via two controversial rulings over the past decade, Congress must act now to pass an update. But people like Rep. Ferguson are afraid of losing power, so they oppose the legislation. Specifically, there is a bill that must be passed to ensure voter suppression does not occur: The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

However, with Senators Sinema and Manchin opposed to changing filibuster rules in the Senate, the only way to achieve this is for the bill to gain GOP support. And with leadership failure in today’s GOP, that won’t happen. That’s why the bill was defeated without a single GOP senator voting for it.

Is it too much to ask them to remember what MLK Jr. said about civil rights, including the right to vote: “In the midst of the desperate need for civil rights legislation, the legislative branch of government is too stagnant and hypocritical. »?

Jack Bernard, a former director of health planning in Georgia, is a retired senior vice president of a national health care company and a member of the Fayette County Board of Health.

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